A few days ago I started to respond to a post by friend (I consider him to be; hope the sentiments are mutual) and fellow blogger Jon Easter about teachers. In his post he commented how much he loves his job as an educator. Jon is a good man. I respect him for several aspects of his beliefs and attitudes, but his enthusiasm for his profession is particularly commendable.
I say I started to respond because the poltergeist in my computer tangled up what I wrote. (Probably I used too many gerunds again; the laptop has a thing about gerunds.) For whatever reason, the words were lost to the ether. Here are the sentiments, if not the words, I remember.
I attended (grades 1 through 12) the Western School Corporation. I graduated from Western High School in 1973. Ryan White made the school famous a few years later. The place was (and is) not known for its politically or socially progressive mindset. There are good people there, though.
I was educated in Indiana’s public schools. If I had an All-Star team to select from the Western School Corporation teachers from whom I learned, they would be (going way back):
-Mrs. Coleford, 3rd grade. She told us JFK had been shot. That was the classic "I remember where I was when..." moment. She also was patient—with everyone—and she made school fun (as in the learning part).
-Mr. Alter, 8th grade reading/spelling; sophomore year English. He was (is) right-wing as hell, but he got me to think. In the latter class, he introduced me to The Great Gatsby and how one can derive a meaningful experience from a novel.
-Mr. (7th grade reading) and Mrs. (7th grade math) Milburn. They were ancient when they taught us, but kind, patient, and good at their jobs.
-Mr. Arbuckle (freshman Civics). Again, he was right-wing as hell. He and Mr. Alter might have attended the same John Birch Society meetings. I take that back. The John Birch Society was too leftist for Messrs. Alter and Arbuckle. But today I still understand the concept of ex post facto laws because of Civics.
-Mr. Hitch (freshman Algebra and sophomore Geometry). He was straight-forward. Freshman year our announcements were read in third period. I had algebra third period. He read (what we would call today) the call-out for anyone interested in being on the speech team. He looked upat me, asked me if I was going, when I hesitated, he said, "You’re a dumbass if you don’t."
-Mr. Orbaugh freshman–really sophomore, but I was on the college-track program--English, and journalism, Junior year. He came into classes oftentimes hungover. He let us read and introduced us to some interesting novels. He had tenure, so they could not get rid of him.
-Mr. Sutton (debate coach, junior and senior years). He never taught me in a class, but I learned a lot about life from him, and I made State Finals.
-Mrs. Wood (speech coach, junior and senior years). She did not know what to make of me, I think, but she gave me a lot of insights, and I made State Finals.
I probably missed a couple and will feel eternally guilty over that fact. There were some teachers who should not have been in the profession. They were in the job because they had graduated from college, could work in clean clothes, and make a decent wage. A lot of them were coaches who taught as a side gig. They need not be named.
Overall my experience in public schools was positive. I learned a lot, especially how to socialize with other people, and did well enough to get a scholarship to DePauw (and was wait-listed at Harvard although we did not call it that and I was unaware what it meant).
Universal public education is part of the reason the United States did so well from the 1940s to a few years ago. I am optimistic about our future when I see a person like Jon Easter and know he is a teacher. I become scared at the prospects of all that going to hell in favor of vouchers, home-schooling, and an abandonment of what got us here.