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On Being Everyone's Teacher

Starting in 1978 (I think) and ending in 2002, I was one of two, sometimes three, English teachers at our high school. That meant every student capable of sitting in a desk for fifty minutes had at least one class from me. For most it was sophomore English and speech. Years later, the results of my work are on display on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and it's pretty interesting. I get to keep track of where everyone lives, whom they marry (or don't), how their kids are growing, and how they feel about life in general. Mostly, I love it. I get comments sometimes from those who aren't sure of their English skills and worry that I will correct their posts. (Not a chance, unless you ask me to.) I get memories of the "good old days," often funny incidents but sometimes messages of thanks for what I hope was respect for all my students. I get a few political arguments, though I try to keep out of the worst of that quagmire. (The funniest/saddest was from a student who was

Those People in Your Past

I was the kind of kid who didn't question much about my schooling. If somebody said "This is the way things are going to be," I went along with it. It had to do with the times, of course. Teachers were kings and queens in their classrooms, and they made rules that suited their tastes. Lately, I've been thinking about a teacher I had who wasn't exactly the ideal educator. I was in upper elementary school, and up to that point, I'd been appreciated by all my teachers. I didn't make trouble, I did my work to the best of my ability, and I smiled when they told jokes, because I was always paying attention. At the beginning of the school year, this woman called me and another girl to her desk to tell us she saw that we'd gotten all A's so far in school, but we shouldn't expect that to happen now. According to her, no one deserved all A's. My classmate and I were dismayed, but as I said, kids accepted the teacher's word as law back then.

Why Being an "Old Teacher" Is Cool

The Fourth of July is like one big quiz for me, and I love it. John and I walk along the street of our small town, which on this one day of the year is so crowded that it looks like New York City after a Yankee World Series win. As we go, people stop me over and over again to say hello, to reminisce, and to introduce me to their children. "This is my old teacher, Mrs. Herring," they say, and I smile at kids who couldn't care less. While we chat, I'm often frantically filing through my memories for a name. Sometimes the family name comes to mind. Sometimes I get a first name, too, so I can say, "Well, John Smith! How are you doing?" Most times the face is familiar but the name won't come (It usually does after we've gone on a few feet--very frustrating). And sometimes I get nothing. It really doesn't have a lot to do with how memorable a student was in my classroom, though teachers do tend to remember the really good ones and the really bad on