Plinky: Who Was Your Favorite Teacher?

  • Best Teacher
  • Apple For The Teacher
    Timken Roller Bearing Co., calendar, September 1950, teacher at desk Her name was Mrs. Diner and she was a teacher in Kew Gardens, Queens at PS 99. She was my sixth grade teacher and I remember her kindness and her warmth. I remember how she looked based on a very old photograph of us that someone took. I don’t think she did anything extraordinary but being a teacher was important to her; she made her students FEEL important and loved. Mrs. Diner was a teacher to remember, she inspired us all. Thank you, Mrs. Diner.
    P.S. 30 years later my mom met her on an airplane and Mrs. Diner remembered me. I was absolutely thrilled!

On Public Speaking

Sweet

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Mr. Bluestone’s Class, seventh grade

The first time I had to speak publicly was in seventh grade in front of my science teacher, Mr. Bluestone and the class. I remember I did it on the TWA 747 and I practiced for hours and hours, for days, weeks. My dad, who worked at TWA at the time, brought home a 747 model jet for me to use. I practiced my speech on my dad endlessly and he was patient and kind.

I remember being in the class, Mr. Bluestone first asked for volunteers and he said, if no one wanted to volunteer he would just pick randomly. The classroom was absolutely quiet, albeit the sound of us all breathing nervously.

All of a sudden, my hand shot up and I decided to volunteer and “get it over with” basically my philosophy in life now as a grown-up.

I went to the front of the class and to the podium, I had practiced so much that the information was like that of a soothing lullaby sung by a mother to her newborn. I finished my presentation, showed my TWA model and finished speaking. There was silence in the room until Mr. Bluestone stood up and said to the class:” well, well, well.” Now, I was frightened. He continued to say that “by being first I had set the bar really high and that other presentations would be compared to mine.” I got an A plus and it gave me the confidence throughout my life to know I can do it; know your material really, really well, find your confidence and strength and speak. Jump at the chance to go first,  you can do it and you can do it really, really well.

Dedicated to Mr. Stuart or Stewart Bluestone, wherever you are.

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Things I Remember

Faces

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I Will Remember You

I’m amazing at remembering people’s faces. I once rain into a Junior High School friend 40 years later–and in a different state. I walked into the bakery with my husband, took one look at this woman and asked if her name was Nora. It was. She was certainly out of context, in a different state and far from the miserable school building we attended 40 plus years later.

I may not remember something that was said ten minutes earlier if there is a lot of noise around me but your face? That lives on…..

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The Moment ( HS Graduation 2011)

Cap Toss

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I never knew how high and wide the big white High School graduation tent was until I stood under it. I didn’t realize how massive it was until I wandered through it.  I walked through the aisles under the tent saying “Hi” and “Congratulations” to people I hadn’t seen in years.

I didn’t know how I would react when my son’s name was read over the microphone yet instinctively we stood and clapped and cheered and roared. I saw a young man walk back to his seat in slow motion; I didn’t realize it was my son; his face  looked so grown up. Teenagers age, I think,  once they put on their High School graduation caps and gowns; he looked six inches taller and six years older too.

It’s all a blur, the speeches and the people you smile at, familiar faces that you have seen in elementary school recitals or a middle-school play. The friends that you hug warmly are the best, closest friends that you have, that you have talked to all year, day in and day out, wondering anxiously if you and your child would ever make it to this grand day. We hold on to each other for an extra minute, sharing this surreal moment, not believing we are actually, finally, here.

They officials on the podium made an announcement to please refrain from clapping until all the students names have been read. Yeah, right. I felt sorry for the first few kids whose last name started with “A.” Those parents were very well-behaved; it just took one family to start…  There were further instructions from the podium to NOT clap for each student so I felt perfectly justified playing my silly game of selection. I did NOT clap for the kids that had ever been especially mean to my son (starting with kindergarten through 12th) and for the mean-spirited moms, dads and kids that everyone knew, were the culprits of spreading ill-will. It was like a silent victory lap for moms and dads; besides we all did the same thing.

I was proud of my self-control, all my sadness, tears, and sobbing began months before the actual event. On the day of graduation I smiled and laughed and was so proud of my son and the amazing young man he has turned out to be.  I was also filled with pride when his three best friends names were called, we shouted and clapped for each one. I will, undoubtedly, miss my son when he leaves for college but also, I will miss his friends, “the posse” as I called them or “The Entourage.” I have no doubt that they will see each other when they come home from college, but this long, lovely chapter of best friends and video games, parties, dinners, dates and diners has ended. I will miss that and my special group of “The Moms.”

Just when I thought the ceremony was over, the President of the High School, told the students that they had officially  graduated. The blue caps were flung in the air with unbridled joy and excitement. There was a deafening roar from the students and all my self-control evaporated in that moment; I burst out crying. It was so emotionally intense; it was captured in my mind and heart forever.

The graduates beamed so much that it looked like they were lit up from inside with joy and pride.  They were shining, like new copper pots or brand new pennies, excitement dancing in their eyes. Congratulations to my son and to all his friends and classmates; Congratulations to the Class of 2011!

“(S)He’s Leaving Home, Bye, Bye”*

Kleinkind beim Laufen

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(April, 2011)

My son, my first-born made his final decision for college in September. He’s excited, thrilled and after celebrating with him, I slipped away and am now holed up in my bedroom, sobbing. It’s not like I haven’t been prepared for this, it’s not like he’s still six it just feels like he was six a moment ago. He’s my boy and as much as I know how happy he is with his choice, the deposit put me over the edge. I fell apart; it was now official.

I know I am being ridiculous, this is not sudden bad news but it feels like a total shock to me. I am weeping and I can’t explain it except to say that while I am so happy for him, I feel vastly sorry for myself. This is my son, my first child, the kid I called “buddy” so many times my husband was worried people would think that was his name. This boy is a delight, a warm, compassionate, smart young man. At the age of 2 1/2 he stunned a grown-up friend when he used the word “compromise.” When the friend doubted him and asked him if he knew what that meant, he explained it beautifully: “If I want to go to bed at 9 and my daddy says 7 then we compromise in the middle.” You can’t argue with facts.

(June, 2011)

I lost it today, in the supermarket between the pizza rolls and the pizza bagels, two past favorite foods of my son. The tears welled up in my eyes and I started crying, quietly, discreetly but that was just strength of will on my part. I could have sobbed but I held myself together. My son is graduating High School in a week and a half. The day after, he leaves to go to his old camp to be a counselor. I never liked being left, that’s for sure. My parents left me alone a lot when I was younger so they could travel together in Europe. I would cry hysterically but once the yellow taxi disappeared from the view from my sixth floor kitchen window, I was alright.

I feel, like many other mothers and fathers feel that he is leaving me and us, the family. I know I am overreacting but this is how I feel. It’s a great thing, a joyful thing but the good feeling hasn’t caught up to my heart yet. In time, I’m sure it will. I just have to get used to it but it is a drawn out process.  I like to think that when he actually leaves FOR college I will be better, but who am I trying to kid?  I’ve never been great at change and this is a big one.

It doesn’t help that my daughter, only one grade year apart from her brother, will be a Senior in High School come September. This little girl of mine is smart, independent and always knew what she wanted from the minute she was born. She planned her birthday party themes four years in advance and stuck to each one of them. She is a fierce animal lover, and vegetarian, she is very smart, extraordinarily beautiful and has an incredible quick wit. This girl, wrapped her arms around my neck for years and wouldn’t let go. No one else could soothe her except me. Soon, she too, will be running out the door, this independent free spirit that I fervently admire.

In our hearts, our secret fear is that our sons and daughters will forget us. So, I am saying this now. Please remember we love you so much. Please don’t forget us or stop loving us. Keep in touch and the hug you give when you visit, try to make it last a second or two longer so that we can remember just how good it feels.

*Courtesy of The Beatles song

If I Were a Teacher

Each One Teach One (Oneida album)

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Life 101

 

I have always and I mean always, wanted to teach a course called Life 101. Originally I thought it would be good for college age students but now that I am older, I know it could be taught in any and every grade. Imagine a class where you would not be judged and you felt free enough to ask questions that you think about. Imagine having conversations, free of fear and tension. Questions you didn’t know whom to ask….you don’t need a Ph.d to teach this class, just be a loving soul with good intentions, be sensitive to others and intuitive. Keep an open mind and help students help the world and each other. Life experience required. I am submitting my resume…NOW!

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It’s Time To Skip, Again

My 2 children spontaneously hold hands and joy...

Fear: I know your name and how you make me feel. My fingers are deep in the inner pocket of my blue fleece jacket rubbing my thumb and forefinger over the soft texture again and again. It is part of my life and everyone’s life at some point. It takes a long time to get over it but eventually you have to and you do. It is like a lazy turtle hiding in its thick green shell and only slowly, with caution, it sticks it’s leery head out and barely looks left and right. It retreats, yes, we all do but we do come out again. Maybe it’s a little easier the next time.

Life is like that, everyone can be terrified at some point and it took me years to accept that it wasn’t just me. I am still cautious, I still get those annoying, tight anxiety strings that pull and tug until they think they can wear me down. I try to push back but sometimes I fail and that is alright. There are solutions because we cannot handle everything ourselves. We need other people or we need medicine or we need to write down our fears or do a collage to rid ourselves of the scary lion, in our minds, attacking its innocent prey. Sometimes, we need to force ourselves to jump or to take a baby step or to skip like when we were innocent children. Remember the feeling of skipping down the street with your best friend? Pure joy and innocence and no fear whatsoever. Maybe we can still be that person once in a while.

It is alright to make mistakes and to make them all over again. Some lessons are hard to learn but not impossible. I know that I feel that too. Some people hide it better than others, some quake, some sweat, some can’t speak for a moment but eventually you find your OWN path. Don’t think it’s just you because it isn’t. I promise. Think of someone who you think has absolutely no fear and then think again. Everyone feels frightened some time in their life. There are some of us that wear our hearts on our sleeves, like me. You can notice my feelings on my face ten feet away, at least some people can; others, don’t notice a thing.

Sometimes I have to play a game. You can play it too. Plaster a great big fake smile on your face and pretend you are absolutely confident. Once my college teacher called it “the confidence game” and I needed it as much as anyone else. It takes time to master it but give it a chance. You might be happily surprised.

“What if I fail?” asks the nervous me. “What if I made a really big mistake?”  I wept to one of my son’s teachers when he was in first grade, “Stand in line, she said “do you think you’re the first one to make a mistake?”  To me it seemed colossal and I did fret with worry but it made me think. My son is now eighteen and I still think of her words, I can picture the teacher’s red hair and the tears on my face streaming down like a small but steady waterfall. When I finally stopped weeping and gave her a hug, I left feeling a tiny bit better. As years went by I always remembered that and now I give other people the same advice I was given. It is okay to make mistakes, everyone does.

If I had any failures in my life most of them were because I was “scared to try.”  I look back at my life and think it might have been really healthy to have been fired once or twice, or scolded and reprimanded instead of TRYING to be the perfect me. My one badge of pride is that I did not pass on my own fears to my children. For this, and this alone, I have succeeded in a spectacular way. I have also forgiven myself for the mistakes I have made, because the decisions I made at the time seemed right. Now, knowing more and being older if I try really hard, I can make different choices. Not always, but sometimes and that’s perfectly good enough.

Ah, Roommates

Utterly Alone

Image by Michelle Brea via Flickr

You mean UGH, ROOMMATES? Don’t you?

The one word you or your college student should fear when they get the information from their chosen school is “TRIPLE.” It’s what happened to me when I applied to college, many, many years before Naviance even existed. We applied by mail, we knew the admissions department’s response by the thickness or the thinness of the envelope. Things were different way back then…..as my daughter likes to say “when the dinosaur’s roamed.”

When I was admitted to college I was unfortunate to be assigned to a triple, 3 girls, one small room. Another phrase for that would be “hell on earth.” I was the big city girl, the two others were from teeny, tiny towns, population probably at the 400 mark. I was doomed right from the start.

I was waiting to be let into the dorm, I was the first one in line. It didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t have my choice of beds, why wouldn’t I? I waited, for the official starting time. Rejoice! I could pick the bed I wanted. I went to my assigned room and once there saw someone’s coat and belongings lounging on the single bed. Apparently not every one was as rule conscious as I was. Apparently, since I was the first in line, one of the girls, apparently, had sneaked into the dorm the night before and laid claim to the single bed. I was absolutely stunned, confused and thought that was unfair;  I was also very naive.

The two roommates bonded in an instant, two small town girls with nothing on their minds but boys, boys and well, boys. I found myself sitting outside in the hallway a lot when the two girls were….ummm…entertaining, their individual boyfriends of the week, on their separate beds, together. The hallway floor and my soft blue and white one piece, zip-up robe became friends. The RA (Resident Assistant) couldn’t really do too much about it although she did offer me a seat on her bed once in a rare while.

As soon as I could, I asked for a transfer but it took months. Finally, I had a new roommate that was great but then, after a while, she left. The rest of the short semester I had a single. I loved it, every single, second of it. Call me antisocial, it felt like heaven.

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EARLY COLLEGE: A PARODY

Even though the SAT or ACT is preferred in dif...

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Dear College Board,

We are parents of a Junior and a Senior in High School. We know all about ” early decision” where students can find out their application status earlier than other students. We also know it is a binding contract and should be taken very seriously. There is also “early action” which is non-binding but still affords the potential student with information about their status from certain colleges with a rolling admissions process. We know it can be a very stressful and tense time waiting for the dreaded AND most eagerly anticipated, April 1st 2011 deadline.  Herewith, I am planning a proposal for yet another placement strategy that is called ” Early College.”

“Early College” are for those seniors in High School that are READY to be in college even though it is still the first quarter of their senior year. “Early College” is meant to help parents deal with their children’s “senioritis”: obnoxious behavior, arguments and their child’s apparent “superior- knowledge -in -everything.” Since these children seem to be SO advanced,  with their astounding wisdom and arrogance it seems fitting that they should have a temporary place to live at a college, any college, before they get officially accepted. Students  would be required to take the following courses: No Beer 101, No Weed, 101, No Lying 101 thru 501 (advanced placement offered after a failed a polygraph test), I Like My Friends Better 101, 301, and 501 and Trying The Patience Of Parents (can be repeated if necessary.)

Parents of the world have been suffering through this transitory stage since the inception of college as we know it today.  It is generally a process that starts in the Junior year of High School which includes, but is not limited to, the following:  1) driving permit, 2) PSAT, 3) tutoring for the SAT, 4) paying for the PSAT and SAT ) 5) paying for driver’s education course 6) paying for additional drivers on our insurance etc. We listen with an open heart to gripes about the PSAT, ACT, SAT, SAT 2’s, and those teachers that “hate” our children. We pay for additional tutoring with a smile and a hefty check and we shuttle those with a learner’s permit to and from: malls, movies, friend’s houses, malls, and malls. I am proposing a Junior program as well for those Juniors in HS that are not quite ready to take the big step away from home. It’s called the “Parent Appreciation Program & Smiling” program or PAPS as we call it. This program is for an entire week where students will have to sit through (or be sat on) courses such as the following: Eye Rolling, Superior Attitude, Cursing, and Selfish Behavior.  In these classes, teachers will parrot student behaviors and show students what it is like for parents every single day and night. They should learn how it feels and recite the following every ten minutes: “treat others as you would like to be treated.” That is, in our program, our mantra.

Thank you for your attention and consideration. We know that the aforementioned programs will bring a brief respite for parents and some important information for the Juniors and Seniors in all High Schools. Please let us know what we can do to expedite this program. I mean that seriously, please.

Yours truly,

Parents of High School Students Incorporated

What My Heart Feels

20080329 - Oranjello, the new kitten - 152-528...

Image by Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL) via Flickr

Nostalgia slips in on tiny kitten paws at the strangest places and the most unexpected of times. Today I went out with my 16-year-old daughter to her annual physical. She got her learner’s permit less than a month ago and drove slowly but easily and with confidence, into the crowded parking lot. As soon as she put the car in Park, the lump in my throat thickened and I was unable to speak.

I started babbling and told her how proud I was of her. That from a shy, timid little girl she had grown into the most amazing, strong, confident and beautiful young woman. She looked at me, as only a teenage daughter can, with a bit of confusion, disgust and annoyance. Frankly, I can’t blame her.

For me,  this week has consisted of writing an essay about my son who is now a senior in high school and writing checks for my daughter’s PSAT test and driver’s education course. Years have slipped into minutes as I felt the twisting and turning, and actual jabbing pain in my heart. We were still right there in the parking lot when my daughter, without a sound, casually handed me back my keys.

The pediatrician’s office was filled with little children, a girl named Maddie, age 3, reminded me of my daughter when she was that age. Inquisitve, bright, lovely with straight blond hair, she danced around the waiting room, talking to the bright yellow and blue fish that swam in the fish tank. We were called in moments later and after the initial hello to the doctor, the pediatrician who has known my daughter since she was about 5, I left the room. The doctor asked my daughter if she wanted me to come back when she had the shots, a yearly tradition, she shrugged her shoulders up and down and said “I don’t care.”  It took me a minute to get up and leave; it was the first time my daughter hadn’t wanted to dig her fingernails, into my skin when she got the shot. I now missed the indentations her polished, blue fingernails would make in my hand.

It is hard to believe that next year my son will be in college and my daughter will be a senior. I feel like singing “Sunrise, Sunset” every day. Life passes by us, without reminders or stop signs. We have taught our children to be independent and strong, birds flying on their own. Times moves on and so must we. I’ve looked at old childhood photographs of when they were young but quickly replaced them with more up to date photos. I need to remind myself that they are young adults now. Once they leave for college it’s all very different. They don’t need us in the same way, we will see them less often but we will be here, quietly, patiently, with love, warmth and excitement whenever they want to come home. We will be waiting here, in their childhood home, with open arms.