This post is not about food. So if you're hungry, in need of a recipe, or want to discuss anything of an edible nature, I'm terribly sorry but you're out of luck. Today, I'm using this platform to pay tribute to two phenomenal teachers.
Meet Mrs. W. See that smile? She wears it all the time. I can be having a total crap morning and when I see her I suddenly feel shiny and cheerful. She even emails me occasionally. "Dear Mrs. Rule, I wanted to let you know what a wonderful job Alex did on his speech... Thank you for all of your hard work at home helping him. We are very proud of him."
I asked her a few questions to try to figure out if she's an alien life form descended from the Planet Sunshine, but it turns out she's just a Really Good Person.
Me: Why did you become a teacher?
Mrs. W: I decided to become a teacher when I was a little girl. My grandfather was a principal and I grew up watching the difference he made in the community where he lived. I wanted to be able to do the same thing he did.
Me: What do you think the most important skills are to impart to elementary school children?
Mrs. W: I think the most important thing for students in elementary school... is to develop a love for learning. Students in elementary school are so curious about learning and I think it is important that they keep that going.
Me: How do you manage to stay so cheerful every single day?
Mrs. W: It's easy to stay cheerful when I get to read and learn with my students all day!
Me: What is the one part of teaching that makes you feel most proud?
Mrs. W: I feel the most proud of how my students see themselves as real authors.
Me: Please describe one unique feature or activity in your classroom that you've spearheaded and why it's valuable for your students.
Mrs. W: Breakfast and Books was an idea that my colleague developed my first year of teaching. She would invite families into her classroom once a month and eat breakfast and read books together. When I started teaching 2nd grade and started using Writer's Workshop, I decided to build upon her idea and develop it into a morning where students shared their writing and reading with their parents.
I want to tell you about one special program Mr. B does at our (public) school. Though he's not a PE teacher, Mr. B started a running program for his students. An informal runner his whole life, he raised $11,000 for the American Heart Association in 2006 after running from New York to California.
His running program, called Hearts in Motion, goes like this: his students run every Tuesday and Thursday in the spring around a makeshift track, and parent volunteers come to hand out water and tally the laps. The students then calculate the miles they've run based on how many laps they've accumulated. The class goal is to run the entire length of the state of California (800 miles). Each student also chooses a charity for which they run in spirit.
On the first day I picked Andrew up after running, he looked like he was going to die. I've never seen a kid so red and tired in my life. Three months later, on the program's last day, the picture was altogether different. He glowed. He was elated. "I did it! I ran 9 laps today! It's the most I've ever run!" It makes me tear up even now to remember how proud he felt. So I wanted to find out more about Mr. B and his motivations.
Me: What inspired you to start Hearts in Motion?
Mr. B: Before I arrived at [the school] in Feb. 2007 the class I took over had gone through a string of different teachers/substitutes. It was clear that it had affected them emotionally. I had done a presentation for the whole school [about] my cross-country run called "A Heart in Motion from Ocean to Ocean," and saw the excitement and curiosity it fostered in my class. I wanted them to have a positive reason for remembering their 4th grade year, so I designed a program that would give them a chance to undertake a similar adventure across California while covering all subject areas.
Me: What are the biggest benefits of this program for the students?
Mr. B: I find that many people, especially as they get older, think of exercise as a necessary evil. By presenting running in this format to students at an early age, it allows them to develop a love for not only the act itself, but for the opportunities it may present. The hope is that [my students don't think] of what we do as simply running for 25 minutes at a stretch, and in that respect, I believe it is successful. They go out there each day with the goal in mind of working together to make it across California, while challenging themselves as individuals to reach their personal goals. We may never leave the school field, but in the students' eyes, there is no difference between what we do and journeying down a coastal stretch, and across a desert on a cross-California adventure.
Would you like to join me in acknowledging the hard work not only of these two generous folks, but of teachers everywhere? If you've ever had a teacher make an impact on your life or the lives of your children, now's your chance to say thanks.
Tomorrow, back to food.