Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thank a Teacher - Better Than Any Praise by Any Supervisor

Fourth graders Maria, Daphne and Diane, 1981, most likely on one of our (numerous) trips.

Wednesday night's News Hour had a decent report on teachers, focusing on the NY State teacher of the year. She said some very good things.

The report ended with the observation that when polled as to the thing they wanted most – no, they did not mention merit pay – teachers said they want to be thanked. At least once in a while.

The Highest Form of Accountability:
Praise from a former student

For me, it's been a long time since I was in a position to be thanked. I was a very confident teacher but over time I have forgotten what it was that made me so confident. Doubts have arisen as to just how good a teacher I was.

So when the email below (and picture) came about 3 weeks ago I was quite surprised. And needless to say, pleased. That it was from a 4th grade student from 1981 who now has 2 children of her own, made this very special. And even though she was around 10 years old at the time, she seemed to get me as a teacher. Ironically, the other teacher she mentions was so totally opposite to me in almost every way (also the principal's favorite just as I was the principal's least favorite.)

Maria, in one of the 2 top classes I ever had, was among my 3-5 most proficient students. And probably the best math student ever. She doubted I remembered who she was. I told her when we spoke that I wouldn't forget one of the few students I had who went to Stuyvesant HS. Maria (and her friends) left a lasting impression on me. Her dad, who was an older gentleman (in a very embarrassing moment I asked him if he was her grandfather) was always there to bring her to school in the morning and pick her up in the afternoon – a wonderful gentleman, and in spite of Maria's giving me credit for stimulating her interest in math, the true source of that interest. I really think he knew more than me. She told me he died 4 years ago in his 90's.

You hear the word "accountability," sure, like no one was ever accountable until the regressive ed movement came along. I always felt accountable – to the people that mattered most – the students and the parents. I couldn't care less what supervisors thought (unless I respected them.) A student opinion, especially after a generation, means more than any award or merit pay one can get. I bet most teachers agree.

The last time I saw Maria I took her and some other students to a college prep class in Manhattan. She was about 17 and on the way to college. We're hoping to get together soon.

Good Afternoon Norman,

In my search to find a good school for my 6 and 3 year old daughters, I started to recall my own elementary school experience.

With that, it brought me to remember two teachers who brought something unique to the classroom and sparked my interest in learning.

You were one of those teachers and Ms. DeMarinas was the other.

I am sure that you do not recall the names and faces of all the children you taught over the years, but I am quite sure that you left your impression on each of them, as I am one of them.

I was enrolled in your class as a 4th Grader in PS 147 in Brooklyn in 1981.

Academically, I recall a wonderful multiplication table that sparked my love of math. I also remember that on Mondays you would assign us ten random words that we would need to incorporate into a storyline by Friday…that was my favorite!

But it was your spirit and love of life that I remember best. In the mornings, you would select a few kids off the line to come help set up the classroom before school began. Getting called up to your classroom was something of the equivalent of getting waved over to Johnny Carson's couch…for that is when the magic happened!

It was during this time that you introduced me to John Lennon, Randy Newman and everytime I hear Wherewolves of London I still think of you!

You strived to inspire inner city children to a world outside of their own…and for some of us, it stuck.

So here I am, researching schools and decided to google your name…and there you were!

My name in 1981 was Maria A-. I was best friends with Diane and Daphne. We remain close friends to this day.

I have attached a picture of the three of us in elementary school…and who knows, our faces might look slightly familiar to you.

(From left to right: me, Daphne and Diane)

I am now a mother of two beautiful daughters and today I have come full circle as I begin to chart their academic lives!

Hope things are well for you and it has made me very happy to be able to reach out to you today.





Anonymous said...

Now this is Teacher Accountability

Anonymous said...


We certainly had our share of memorable students at 147!
Wish I could have known Maria and am glad she wrote to you. I am sure you inspired many kid's lives as did we all over the years. (we who worked there)
How unfortunate our friends who still work there today are under a biggeer tyrant then we had!

Anonymous said...

How wonderful. This brought tears to my eyes. Yes, this is what teaching is all about. Thanks for sharing with all of us.