Monday, July 14, 2008

Words from a Master Teacher

One of the nice things about the summer is the opportunity to catch up with people. I happened to be involved in an email conversation with a remarkable Master Teacher this past week.

She's been teaching quite a long time. She taught both of my 20-something children when they were in seventh grade. Their faces still light up when they see her. Our paths had diverged for a while and then re-intersected a couple of years ago when I was leading a knitting and crocheting group at our synagogue.

Our conversations during the K&C group were wide-ranging and one night in particular, the rest of us were enthralled with the stories she shared about some of her experiences in Israel, shortly after the founding of the State.

It was just a short jump in my mind from having her share her stories with us to asking her to share them with the students in my school (third through sixth graders) as part of their studies of the land/geography of Israel.

I have very clear memories of her kicking her shoes off and (starting at Haifa in the north) walking the length of a huge, room-sized map, telling stories about people she knew, the sights and sounds, and helping us experience Israel in a way few others can make it come alive. My students were enthralled, mesmorized, silent - wrapped up in the stories from another time and place. Fifty minutes later, she took a breath and asked for questions. We ran out of time before we ran out of questions. She was our text person that day.

Anyhow, we were talking -- emailing -- about our favorite subjects: students and teaching. Here's what she had to say:

I still shake my head, as a passionate educator, when I remember my heyday as a kid, hookey player par excellence. No one would have laughed louder than I, had someone told me I would spend most of my life as an educator. You know the drill: loved learning; hated school. At this advanced stage in life, I am convinced the beloved teacher is one who, still, loves learning and appreciates that the mind of a child must soar beyond bricks and mortar - and now. We have to mind travel with them; we have to stimulate their own willingness to let go the fetters of here and now to travel back into the past and forward into the future. That's the part I've always loved best because, as I now know, I've never grown up. :-) Like Peter Pan, I see no sense in that.....

How many lives she's been able to profoundly affect through her ability to travel with her students.


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