It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States this week (May 8-12), and I was browsing through a calendar of special days in May only to discover that May 11 is “Twilight Zone Day.” Coincidence? I think not.
So, I thought I would see if there were any Twilight Zone episodes about teachers. And there were. The first one that came up is called, “Changing of the Guard.” “Great!” I thought. “Let’s find some clips.”
So when I caution you not to recklessly watch old Twilight Zone clips during your procrastinatory moments, you should definitely take that advice to heart. The first clip that I watched from the episode had me in tears. And not the good kind. (Side note — who knew “procastinatory” was actually a word? I was as surprised as you when I typed it and didn’t get a vicious, red underline beneath it.)
“Changing of the Guard” is a about a professor who has been forced to retire, and he definitely does not feel good about it. He muses that he has accomplished nothing in his life and becomes deeply depressed. The worst kind of depressed.
But just as he decides that it’s all too much to bear, standing beside the grave of Horace Mann, the school bell rings again and he finds himself back in the classroom for a reunion with former students.
I don’t want to give too much away. But let’s just say I cried again. The good kind of tears, or mostly good anyway.
If you want to see what happened, here is the clip I recommend. Just do not say I didn’t warn you to have a box of tissues nearby.
Fun fact: Rod Serling began teaching college courses in his 40’s, and continued until his death at the early age of 50.
Oh, and it’s also “Eat What You Want Day,” which seems like a fortunate confluence of events. Celebrate them all. Tell the teachers who made a difference to you (because I promise you that most of us have no idea whether we made an impact or not), eat a great big doughnut, and take this advice from Rod Serling:
Teachers: Don’t forget to sign up for a chance to win a free, self-paced course by midnight, May 12, 2023! More info here!
I was reading a post in the “Teachers” sub-Reddit last week where a college student asked if it was weird to reach out to a former teacher to tell them what a difference they made in the student’s life. I immediately encouraged the person to find a way to communicate this to the teacher because it has never, ever been weird for me to hear from former students. In fact, it’s the best gift I’ve received over the years.
In the past, I’ve written tributes to some of my own past teachers:
Today I want to publicly thank another high school teacher, my choir teacher, Mrs. Toni Collins-Gosney.
I still remember when I auditioned for choir, belting out “Keep on Singing,” by Helen Reddy. In retrospect, I can’t believe Miss Collins didn’t laugh out loud at my ridiculously earnest performance. Instead, she welcomed me into the choir, and nurtured me throughout the rest of my high school career.
In choir, I learned how to collaborate with a diverse group of students, to compete, and to never give up. There were so many times when we were in singing competitions and things looked hopeless, only to emerge victorious at the last minute. I had never been a “fighter” (perfect example — whenever playing tag, as soon as the person who was IT got close to me, I just stopped in my tracks, put my head down, and let them tag me) but Miss Collins taught me to make improvements and persevere.
She had high standards, but she was close with our group of young women (all-girls school) and never played favorites. One of my favorite memories is traveling with some of them to Mississippi to sing at her wedding.
With encouragement from her, I made the All State Choir. My family didn’t attend what turned out to be a life-changing experience for me, but Miss Collins did. She also often stayed with me, sitting in front of the school at midnight, long after every one else had been picked up, without ever making me feel guilty for my family’s tardiness.
As my senior year rolled around, Miss Collins suggested I go into music, but I never thought I could be as good as she was. I did decide to go into teaching, however, and won a few scholarships to good schools. One of them was in my hometown. Although it covered four years of tuition, room and board was not part of the package. Living at home had become an untenable situation, and Miss Collins offered for me to come live with her and her new husband. Although I didn’t end up taking her up on the offer, her generosity was never forgotten. When I later became a teacher, I often remembered the many times she went above and beyond for me, and tried to extend the same kindness to my students whenever I could.
I ultimately accepted a scholarship to another school, in San Antonio, where I still live. I lost touch with Mrs. Collins-Gosney over time, but when I finally decided to open a Facebook account, I searched for her. To my surprise, she was easy to find and we became friends after over 30 years.
I continued to keep music as an important part of my life, and I imagine that passion is one of several factors, including an inspiring music teacher of her own, that prompted my daughter to participate in her own school choirs from elementary school through high school.
Last year, my daughter began her college studies with the goal of becoming a music teacher, and I think she might just live up to the woman I held in high esteem for decades, both in kindness and skill.
So, I just want to thank you, Mrs. Collins-Gosney, during this Teacher Appreciation Week. You were such a wonderful example to me as a musician, adult, and teacher — and I worked hard to “Pay It Forward” throughout my own career as an educator. I am glad we found each other again so I could express my gratitude, and I hope that anyone who reads this makes an effort to thank a teacher who made a difference.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week in the U.S., and Jimmy Fallon loves teachers. In their honor, his Tuesday night audience this week was composed of 200 New York City teachers. You can see Jimmy’s heartfelt introduction to the show here.
Jimmy’s story about the teacher who gave him a hall pass to go outside, reminded me of a story my daughter told me about one of her middle school classmates, also a former student of mine. Apparently, he exasperated one teacher enough that she asked him to step outside into the hall for a moment. The door had a glass pane in it. A few minutes after leaving the room, the student pressed his face against the pane, and sang, “Hello from the other side…” by Adele. Fortunately, like Jimmy Fallon’s teacher, my daughter’s teacher also had a sense of humor!
Thanks for Teaching Us is a site that allows students to publicly thank their teachers. I blogged about it 3 years ago, and thought it would be good to mention it again. Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week in the U.S. (May 4th-8th), and teachers are always thankful for heart-felt words from their students. If they have permission to have their work and first name on the internet, allow them to type their thanks on this site. Once it is posted, the letter can be e-mailed to the teacher. Searches can be done on the site, as well, for teachers and schools that have already received thanks.
I absolutely love this video posted by Google in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week:
Here is Google’s message on the YouTube page: “Thank you to the millions of passionate teachers who inspire curiosity in their classrooms…lesson after lesson, unit after unit, year after year. We’re fortunate to have had many of you in our lives, and we can’t wait to see what the future will bring because of the work you’re doing today.”
And, please, as we spend this week appreciating our teachers, consider how fortunate we are to have the educational system we have in the United States and many of the other countries around the world. In yesterday’s post, I asked for help in righting an injustice which is rampant in several regions where students, particularly girls, risk their lives to receive an education. I would be grateful if you would spread the word about this post, and what steps can be taken to right this wrong. #BringBackOurGirls
The summer before I started high school, our family moved to Louisiana from Kentucky. My first year of high school was miserable. Not only was I a shy girl who didn’t know a soul, but the Louisiana humidity and classrooms without air-conditioning just about did me in. My Biology teacher spent the majority of each class preaching against pre-marital sex, and the three years I had just spent in Kentucky trying to learn how to dribble and throw a basketball did not impress my new P.E. teacher.
My one saving grace was my Algebra I class. For years, I had struggled in math; I remember many nights in 1st-8th grades arguing with my mother about the right way to do a problem and producing homework papers full of tear stains and erasure holes to my teacher each morning. But, unbeknownst to my new school, I had already had two years of Algebra in 7th and 8th grade. My transcript only showed it as a math class, and so, I was put in Algebra for the 3rd year in a row when I started high school.
By then, I knew all about this x and y stuff. Algebra was, by far, my easiest class that year, and the tears I cried in 9th grade were never over math.
At the end of the year, however, I realized I had made a huge mistake.
My Algebra teacher, Mrs. O’Brien, called me into her office. “I’m recommending you for Honors Geometry next year,” she told me. I was blind-sided. Honors Geometry was for gifted math students. I was not a gifted math student. Had never been, would never be. Where in the world did she get such a crazy idea? Then, I realized the problem.
“Oh, you think I’m good at math because I got good grades this year,” I said. I knew I had to confess. “I only did well because I’ve had Algebra before. I’m not good at math. Really. Especially anything to do with shapes. I would not do well in Honors Geometry, trust me.”
I felt a panic rising in me at this realization that this year of pretending to be what I was not was going to completely backfire on me.
Mrs. O’Brien looked at me. “You are good in math. And you will do well in Honors Geometry. Trust me.” And that was that. With a flick of her wrist, she signed off on the form that would doom me to a Sophomore year littered with math anxiety.
I spent the entire summer before 10th grade consumed in regret at my short-sightedness. I should have done worse in Algebra, pretended I was floundering, gone in for tutoring, kept myself from raising my hand so darn often. Now I would be in for it. But even then, even as I obsessed about this horrible year ahead, I felt a bit proud – it was nice to know that Mrs. O’Brien believed that I could be good in math.
Honors Geometry was taught by Ms. Michele. Ms. Michele was beautiful. Ms. Michele was smart. And Ms. Michele was no-nonsense. She was everything in a teacher that intimidated me.
Except she didn’t intimidate me. When she taught, she used a method that I had never seen before in math. Instead of just telling us what to do, she told us why to do it. For everything there was a logical reason, and when I didn’t understand the reason and timidly raised my hand, she patiently explained it.
In fact, it got to the point where I didn’t have to raise my hand anymore. Ms. Michele would scan the classroom, and pause on my face. “Theresa, I can tell you have a question,” she would say. (I was “Theresa” back then, not “Terri.”) And, instead of despairing at my consistent puzzlement, she would patiently back up and explain the concept a different way.
At the end of the year, I won the award for Honors Geometry. I went on to Honors Algebra II, and then Calculus. I will never pretend that I understood one thing I learned in Calculus, but I did fine, even so. For a girl who “just wasn’t any good at math,” I didn’t do too badly.
Back before there was such a buzz phrase as “Growth Mindset,” I had teachers who believed in me when I did not. They helped me work through mistakes and figure out how to correct them. I had similar experiences in Chemistry and Choir. Even in English, which had always been my strength, I had many moments of doubt and self-hatred. But kind teachers were always there to help me through.
So, during this week of Teacher Appreciation, I would like to thank those women and men at Archbishop Blenk High School who helped me to believe in myself. Ms. Michele and Mrs. O’Brien are two of them. Ms. Collins, Dr. Antoine, and Mrs. McGee also made a difference, along with many others who, I’m sorry to say, I cannot remember all of these years later. Thank you to all of you who devoted your time and effort to the education of the girls at Archbishop Blenk High School. I’m sure I expressed my gratitude when I graduated, but I want you to know that, even now, I am so thankful for the part you played in my life.