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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.


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damn. i wonder if they can clone him...

"He teaches the math textbook from front to back 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."

Isn't harder stuff in the back?
And aren't their minds full of summer when they JUST get back from summer vacation? Not trying to be difficult, just confused.

You are indeed lucky this year. Let's hope the school administrators don't try to "fix" him.

This man seems to me to be a teacher because it is his CALLING, as opposed to some other less-inspired reason. My sister is that way. She's got the heart of a teacher.

Thanks for sharing this ... you're very lucky, he sounds like a great teacher.

Michele, out of curiosity I took the Math A regents test in July. Being an engineer I easily scored a 96, but that's not important right now 8^)

What is important, I think, is that I learned ALL of that stuff in High School, so I'm not sure exactly what is particularly different about preparing kids for these tests that teachers shouldn't already be doing.

It's not that the teachers are teachers are prepareing the children for standardized tests, it is that they do that and neglect what really matters. We (I say we being a kid myself) are growing up full of the knowledge of how to relate words to one another, and with enough math to build the space shuttle, but without the basic skills to live life. We learn nothing of reality in schools, it is all recalling facts. It's not what you learn, it's how much you can memorize.

JAGR - count yourself lucky, at least you are being taught some facts! I know one young woman who has graduated from highschool and has trouble with math as basic as "You buy 4 dozen eggs. You use a half dozen. How many do you have left?" She was never taught times tables, and was just passed on up in math all the way through high school. And she is by no means an isolated case.

Many of these facts that are memorized are very useful in life outside of school (like the above problem - can't do a household budget if you don't know basic math). And anyway, the job of the school isn't to teach students how to live life, it's to teach them those pesky facts. How to live life is something that should be learned at home and has no place in school (no school better even TRY to teach my girls how to "live life"). Whether schools should be giving students tools for surviving in the real world is something else, and is a debatable point.

Sounds like DJ will have a great year. Too bad there aren't enough teachers like that.


What do you mean when you say he graduated from "a" Naval Academy. Was this a prep school or Annapolis?

Is this the same guy that had those inspired remarks about the bully?

JFH - A prep school in New York City.

Auto - Yes.

Kids need to know facts AND they need to know how to live life.
It is the teachers' responsibility to teach them the FACTS and the parents' responsibilty to teach their kids how to live life.
Not sure where I heard it but there was a high school principal that described his school's teaching style as "not getting caught up in all of the details. I mean who really cares how many US Senators there, like anyone knows that anyway."
Not only should this man not be in charge of an entire school of teachers, but he should not be allowed to vote either.

"He fought in the Korean war" The youngest Korea veterans are 67. He must love his job, my brother is retiring from teaching at 55.

I believe he's 73. He's been teaching for 38 years.

Wow, this guy sounds like a Dream Team of one.

How fortunate you, and DJ, are. These folks, the men and women that have a true calling to educate, are few and far between and it's remarkable what a difference they can make in a childs life.

I had one, a Mr. Smith in fifth grade and that man taught me more about the world and, more importantly, how to learn than any ten teachers combined afterwards.

I've been reading your site for quite a while, Michele, but this is my first commentary.

Mr. G sounds like a good teacher. Know that there are plenty of good teachers out there in schools today--just like Mr. G or who have potential to be like him, but it's the administration who controls the schools--from curriculum to mandated testing to school finances. When administration and teachers get into head-butts about what is good for students, the majority of teachers will become "fixed" in order to keep their jobs. An honorable teacher will leave the district and find another job elsewhere, but then you lose a good teacher. And it is unfortunate that in some cases, some of those good teachers never go back into the field.

Mr. G is definitely a rare find--especially someone who is still teaching at his age.

If the man thinks good discipline is the hallmark of love and treats the children as if they were his own, your son is very lucky to be in his class.

I'm guessing the folks running Mepham High School didn't think that way.

Does he have a big "S" on his chest? ;)

Your description makes me think of two teachers I had in high school that I will always remember. They were "different" from the other teachers because they were passionate about it. You've got a lucky lad there, Michele.

You and your son are lucky to have such a teacher... my son had a lot like that, because many of them came from a military background and took up teaching after they retired from the military.

I'm thankful they all decided to stay here in Leavenworth to teach. Andy had at least 6 high school teachers, retired military officers, who encouraged him, believed in him, and made him a great student.

Teachers like that are worth their weight in gold!

(and let's hope they all weigh over 200 pounds)