Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Teacher's Legacy

Last week I was reshelving books when a certain title caught my eye.  My memories were immediately flooded with my 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Grabeel, reading to us after lunch each day.  Honestly I remember nothing about this particular book, but what I do remember is sitting enthralled each and every school day as this teacher took time after lunch to read to us.  Just read.  We were never quizzed.  There was not a list of facts we were required to regurgitate on a comprehension test.  She just read.

My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Elkins, loved to reward her students with books.  If a student accomplished a certain goal or won an award or simply made great progress, she gifted that student with a book.  My Trixie Belden collection started with this one.   I still have the very copy from 1972 that she gave me.

I was pondering the legacy they left me...and wondering how many children are being blessed with this legacy now.  Times have certainly changed since I was a public-schooled girl in the 60's and 70's.  Common Core, standardized tests and the race to the top, not to mention revisionism, Darwinism and worse have stripped most classrooms of any living ideas.  What would happen if teachers were free to spend just 10  minutes after lunch reading to their students.  Just reading.  Wonderful fiction, inspiring biographies, thrilling adventures.  How would this change the face of our culture? 

I wish my teachers could see what became of their investment of reading.  Mrs. Grabeel moved away a few years after I left her classroom.  Mrs. Elkins passed away a few years ago after a brave battle with cancer.  Their love of books and of the ideas contained within, however, are still alive and well in me and in those who enter my library doors.  And the legacy is being passed on to future generations. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Getting to Know You

We recently said goodbye to an old friend.  We have spent the last year or so getting to know him well.  Our family has had many instructive conversations, laughs and cries because of our relationship with him.  Our lives will be forever changed and made fuller because of the influence he had on us.  It won't be goodbye forever, however.  We can visit him anytime just by opening a book.

His name is Ralph Moody and we learned about his life..good, bad, happy sad...through the pages of the Little Britches series.  Ralph's work ethic and willingness to learn whatever was necessary to make his way was inspiring to my boys.  Some lessons are harder learned and we sympathized with him as he took his life's knocks.  That's the wonderful thing about building relationships.  We share the ins and outs of their lives and ours become fuller in the process.

The beauty of living books is that we can build relationships with those who have gone before, lingering over the pages to learn from their wisdom (or lack thereof.)  They don't even have to be real people.  I've learned some of the truest life lessons through the lives of fictional characters. 

The time.  Time to ponder.  Time to savor.  Time to ruminate.  If we feel rushed to get through a book list or a curriculum guide, we won't develop those relationships beyond a cursory glance.  It's like real life.  Some people we do not know at all.  Others we know only in passing.  Lasting relationships are developed by spending time with those folks who are dearest to us.  We get inside their hearts and minds and they into ours.

Our fast-paced world makes it more difficult to know anyone well.  Slow down.  Open a book.  And build a relationship.