Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Where a Group of My Former Students Pass the Highest Stakes Test of All - Life

Sally Lee made the request and here it is. Your job is to match them up with their current photo. The only one not here is Luis who was moved to another class for the 6th grade - I assume because his scores went up enough to put him in the "one" class.

I can't think of a more fun day than I had on Sunday, getting together with a bunch of former students from my 5th and 6th grade class which graduated in 1979. This is one of the 2 classes I looped with and having most of them for 2 years made things so easy in the 2nd year.

We shared so many memories on Sunday and hearing how their lives turned out 37 years later is an amazing treat for a teacher. Given the poverty of the neighborhood and the dangers they faced and the stories of so many kids lost to the streets, it was heartwarming to see them with jobs and careers and families. And also rising above the poverty so many of them grew up with.

There were a whole bunch who couldn't make this and we are planning on doing it again in the spring or summer. Lavinia (center), whose face is exactly the same as it was in 1979, said she would host.

There is so much I want to say about these students, our 2 year journey together and what I learned about them on Sunday. I just need to think some of this through in more depth. I hadn't seen most of them since they graduated, other than the times they stopped by to see me when they graduated from junior high school or stopped by on open school night. I had some of their family members as well.

One thing that did occur to me ties into testing. I believe that 6th grade 1978-79 school year with these kids may have been one of the best I experienced. This past Sunday night I realized one of the reasons why. Around that time there was a coup d'etat in my school and the principal and assistant principal (who was a big support for me) were deposed by an assistant principal tied to the local political machine who became the principal. I was on her enemy list from the day she came into the school 4 years before and she divided the school into camps. But most important was that she was test-driven along the lines of the current ed deformers and viewed my teaching style as anathema to her total test prep all the time, leading to pressures on teachers that often creates tension with the kids. After that year even though I resisted that pressure as much as I could, I had to adjust for self-preservation and never again felt I had the freedom as a teacher that I had with these kids.

So these "kids" probably saw me in the last best light I had as a classroom teacher, though I did have a few years left through 1985 before I went on sabbatical and leave for 2 years before coming and the principal getting her way in pushing me out of the classroom and into a cluster.

Martina and Herbie.

Star and Martina, friends since they were 5. Star is a manager for Costco in Mass. Martina works in insurance.

Mary and Lavinia - I had Mary's 3 brothers in my classes - we have seen each other over the years. Her hubby and brothers work for the MTA. Mary does childcare. Lavinia works at NYU Medical and we're going to do sushi real soon for lunch.

Herbie was EMS and Luis works in medical field

Milly (on left) works at LIU library

This would not have happened if not for Facebook - grudging thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, who might have learned to be a better coder if he had me as his computer teacher (my 2nd life as a teacher starting in 1987).


  1. Your best posting ever, Norm.

  2. One of the best things I have read in a long time. Lost in all the ed deform and all the union stuff, this is why we do the job... to build life long connections. To touch the number of lives teachers are capable of touching. It says a great deal about the type of teacher you were that 37 years later a large group wants to hang out with you! I can only hope my students will feel the same way one day!

    Thanks Norm... this post made my day.

  3. You inspired this...

  4. Where are the photos from 1979? Some THEN and NOW side by side comparisons?


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