Hello, Mr. Chips

The last two years have wrought tremendous change in Jim’s life. Making the decision to go back to school to become a teacher sounded so simple in a way. I think it was clear to everyone who knew Jim that he would make a fantastic teacher. There are few people I know who are as intelligent, soak up knowledge like a desert rain, love to learn for the sheer pleasure of it and then love sharing that knowledge (sometimes ad nauseum) with those around him.

Grad school was often a hump. Not only was there the need to get back into the practice of being a student. There was a pretty significant quotient of dogma to ingest. Not all of this dogma agreed with Jim and there were some tough times when he tried to work through theories and philosophies with which he truly disagreed. But he persisted. That meant gritting his teeth and playing along.

Of course, Jim excelled at every course. During the time he was home with the kids, his drive for excellence was not always apparent. He was a good and nurturing parent, but there were few exams or situations which would allow him to quantify his gifts. Those gifts, however, were in full view during his course work. He was dubbed “the curve buster” and brought passion and commitment to each of his classes.

In September Jim began the final push. Except for one evening seminar, Jim’s life would now be devoted to student teaching. Over the course of fourteen weeks, one seven-week segment in middle school and one seven-week segment in high school, Jim would gain experience and his “chops” in the classroom.

Jim’s first assignment was seventh grade English at the middle school in Valhalla. The teacher with whom he was working was named Lou. Lou was a good teacher and an extremely generous man. He wasn’t at all possessive of his classroom and let Jim co-teach extensively with him. They got along really well and Jim learned a lot about functioning in the classroom, maintaining discipline and presenting lessons. I think he worked in classrooms with a total of ninety students and was pleased to have learned all their names.

It was a great assignment. Comparing notes with his peers at their Wednesday afternoon seminar on applied teaching and the practice teaching experience, not all of his peers were as happily situated. As the first segment drew to a close, it was bittersweet. Jim was sad to leave Valhalla and Lou and his students, but excited for the next session.

This past Monday Jim began his work in the high school English environment at Mamaroneck. Margaret is the teacher with whom he is working and if Lou was generous, then Margaret might just exceed him. Jim learned so much in his first segment and he is hitting the ground running this time. As with Lou, Jim is trying to bring as much into the classroom himself as possible.

They are working with “The Crucible” and Jim constructed a lesson centered around Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY. He gave the lesson once and he and Margaret fine-tuned it. The second class in which he presented, things caught fire. Jim came home over the moon with happiness because the class had basically taken the lesson and run with it. They were making connections and sharing ideas and even those who don’t often speak, were participating. It was in Margaret’s words, “one of those classes that remind you why you love to teach.”

That’s the payoff for a lot of hard work. And there will be tons more hard work in the future. Lesson plans, grading papers, learning names, helping kids who want to learn, helping kids who don’t want your help. Whoever thinks teaching is a 8 to 3 job with summers free, never really spent time in the classroom. Certainly, Jim is one who will throw heart and soul into his work.


One Comment to “Hello, Mr. Chips”

  1. Jim will be a great addition to the teaching profession. I loved teaching and still smile thinking about all the great teachers and kids I worked with. His experiences will enrich the whole family. 🙂
    Give him our best

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