meeting mr. g.
I had the pleasure of meeting DJ's fifth grade teacher last night.
I've written about Mr. G before, when DJ came home talking about Wesley Clark and gun ownership.
Mr. G. started off by telling us that New York State is about to pass a law requiring all teachers to share their backgrounds with the parents of their students. So, Mr. G. jumped the gun a little and shared some pieces of his life with us.
He attended military and boarding schools when he was young. He graduated from a Naval Academy and then went on to Fordham where he got his business degree, then to Hofstra where he got his law and teaching degrees. He began teaching 38 years ago.He is also certified as a principal, but has never felt the urge to become an adminstrator.
He went to high school with Alan Alda and once spent a day of a family cross-country vacation in a trailer park teaching Muhammed Ali how to set up a barbecue and fix things in his Winnebago.
He fought in the Korean War. He has four kids and four grand kids. Two of his children are teachers.
He believes that good discipline is the hallmark of love. He treats every one of his students as if they were his own kids. He thinks learning should be fun and is furious that New York State makes teachers take so much time to prepare for state mandated testing. He has 21 kids in the class and requested two student teachers so each child could get a good amoung of one on one help when needed. He comes in early and stays late every day in case any of his students need extra help in any subject.
In addition to doing things like donning a wet raincoat when teaching about the water cycle, he squeezes in little lessons like giving vocabulary words in Portuguese or Italian. He teaches the math textbook from
front to back back to front because he thinks the kids will learn the hard stuff more easily in the beginning of the year when their minds are fresh and not full of summer.
He has photos of his past students hanging up on the wall. He keeps old textbooks around because sometimes he likes to teach without all the political niceness that pervades textbooks today.
While he is lecturing about fractions or verbs or the Philadelphia Convention, he manages to throw in side lessons about driving and politics and anything else they don't teach kids in books, but that they need to move on to middle school and life in general.
He's a good teacher and even better, he's a good man. I'm glad he shared those parts of his life with us, because it makes me feel as if I am sending my somewhat unsure of himself son to school every day with a teacher who not only has every confidence in DJ, but makes learning a comfortable and pleasant exeperience while not taking away from all the facts and figures he needs to know. It's very rare to find a teacher who can do both and succeed at it.