If I make a promise and decide not to keep it (even if I think it’s a for a good reason), I feel icky. So I feel icky this morning because I promised you two memoir reviews this week, and you’re only going to get one–on Thursday.
But I do have a good reason (you knew that was coming!), and that is because I hit you with two really negative posts last week, and I hate ending the story that way.
What I like to remember is that after negative events start to commandeer my life, all it takes is one good person to turn it around. An everyday hero.
After my negative experiences in the last part of 3rd grade, with the teacher bully and the bus bullies, I was matriculated into Mr. Polonowski’s 4th grade classroom.
He was Miss Slack’s opposite. A phenomenal teacher.
Mr. P, as we called him, was a tall lanky young man with a brush cut (crew cut) haircut and glasses. Before 4th grade, I didn’t realize teachers could be men.
Mr. P’s classroom was ruled by respect, meaning he respected us. So we, of course, respected him.
It was my best year of school . . . ever.
Here are some of the many high points of Mr. P’s class:
- He set up a long table in the front of the fully windowed wall with Michigan’s natural and cultural treasures: fossils, Petoskey stones, arrow heads, copper, and rock salt. Unlike show and tell, the goodies stayed up for a long time and we were free to handle and examine when our assignment was done. I particularly enjoyed sampling the rock salt ;).
- We used SRA* reading materials, so I was allowed to read as much and as fast as I wanted, plowing through all the beautiful colors and then back up through them again.
- Mr. P didn’t require boxes around answers during arithmetic. He never put a kid on the spot. He helped us learn division, to feel pride, and not to dislike math.
- Mr. P read to us every day. He read from The Oregon Trail and Pippi Longstocking. The way he read them with his deep expressive voice, they were two of the most exciting books I’d ever “read.”
- We watched science documentaries and got very engaged in our discussions afterward. I still remember those films and how relaxed our classroom felt–how free we were to explore new ideas and information.
- During lunch, we were allowed to rehearse plays. A friend and I wrote the plays, usually based on fairy tales, and we coerced a few classmates into performing them. I’d started directing plays when I lived in my old neighborhood and still loved it. I think Mr. P also knew that I was a little hyperactive and needed an extra activity.
Sometimes I wonder if Mr. P, everyday hero, stayed in teaching or ended up leaving for business or law or another career. For the sake of the children, I hope he stuck with it.
* SRA reading lab was a supply of color-coded reading material. We were assigned a level to begin at and we would read articles and respond to questions within that color level. When we mastered it, we would move up to the next color. When we reached the highest level, we could start back at the bottom of the box and keep reading. It functioned a bit like the Montessori method in that an entire class could be at all different reading levels–nobody would be dragged ahead until she mastered her level and nobody would be held back when she could move forward. Although eventually the color and design were changed, when we used SRA, there were many colors so it was a system that was both tangible and aesthetically pleasing.