a good teacher makes for a good school year. a bad teacher can destroy a kid. at the beginning of each school year, i always hoped for a good teacher for joseph and eastman–someone who would believe in them, respect them, and have their respect. a good teacher means a good year and my boys had that. except for eastman’s second grade.
mrs. s. was a young teacher, very intelligent, but also possessing of a horrific fault–she didn’t like eastman. she thought he was very unintelligent. in a word, she thought he was stupid because he would daydream instead of finishing his math worksheets. oddly, she was giving him the same worksheets he had been given in kindergarten so he was a maybe bored. but also, maybe there are teacher-child relationships that are just fraught.
it was a horrific year. he thought he was stupid. i started to doubt myself as a mom and to even doubt him. our one parent-teacher conference ended with him and me in tears and mrs. s. with a smug expression. i let him stay home way too many days.
f2fb friend #201 julie halpern made that year bearable. most people know julie as a novelist of some note–in fact, when we met at the steak n’shake for lunch she gave me a first edition of her third book.
julie also had a second career–she worked as an educator in many capacities. and in eastman’s second grade, she ran a reading group of which eastman was a part. they read dr. doolittle. she adored eastman. he returned those feelings. she thought eastman was funny. he thought she was grand. they were both right!
at the end of a school year, a relationship between teacher and student ends–in mrs. s.’s case she was fired. she had not liked eastman but she had also not liked a lot of other of her students. eastman had a different third grade experience although, unfortunately, it didn’t include being in julie’s reading group. but they met up again when eastman was in eighth grade and julie was assigned to be his advisor. she was at that point writing her first novel “get well soon” and she trusted him enough to ask him to read the manuscript. he felt terrifically honored and he put his best effort into reading it.
eastman was certainly changed by his relationship with julie but one of the surprises in talking to julie was finding out that eastman changed her. a good teacher makes for a good school year, but sometimes a good student can make for a good year for the teacher. i felt proud of him and i think every parent should make a point of seeking out a former teacher of their children just so they can hear what happened in the classroom.
however, at the end of lunch, i did not end up with great parental blackmail material. instead, julie and i decided to get eastman a stuffed animal. sure, he’s a sophomore at oberlin college, but every boy would like a stuffed animal. i thought we should aim for a smurf.
i am grateful to julie–and then i had to say goodbye because i had to go auto racing with f2fb friend #202. yesterday was a very big day!