Saturday, May 17, 2008

Champions of the Classroom


Yesterday I met a former student for lunch. I have not seen this young woman since I was her sixth grade Language Arts teacher. She’s now 20, driving, smoking cigarettes, and filled with an energy that can only be attributed to the young. She informed me that her grandmother had always considered me “too hard” a teacher, but this wise and worldly young woman informed me that she remembered everything we did in the course her sixth grade year. All these years later, that made me really happy.

Naturally, I began to reflect on some of my most memorable teachers. I went to a magical school from 5-th-8th grade, which was replete with a bevy of talented, young, and I must say, very attractive teachers. I was madly in love with my 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Tippy. He was blond, with a cute mustache, and a winsome smile. He even had dimples! All the girls were smitten with him and so were most of our mothers.

One day, while we struggled with Shakespeare’s English while reading Hamlet, My. Tippy slammed his textbook shut and stood up. Now, I went to the kind of school where teachers were afforded the greatest amount of respect and when an adult rose to his or her feet, so did we. Mr. Tippy scrutinized us carefully and then said, “Let’s go to the roof. Bring your books with you.”

east-woods.jpg(A photo of my school)

We glanced out the window. There was a light rain outside and a fog had risen beyond the garden area (our school was once a privately-owned mansion and had beautiful grounds and a large, flat roof). We tiptoed up the third story stairs, where none of us had ever been before as the area was strictly off-limits to students. Mr. Tippy paused at the broom closet and directed two of us to grab brooms from within.

Out on the roof, exposed to the chill and the rain, he had us read the opening scene of Hamlet. He demanded that we shout our lines, that we felt our parts, that two of the boys battled with broom handles while reciting their lines, that the ghost of Hamlet’s father wander restlessly around the roof’s perimeter.

Today, he’d probably be fired or sued for such an act, but I remember every second of the class and the feelings Shakespeare was going for in Act 1, Scene 1 were seared into my memory forever. I’ve read most of the bard’s plays because of Mr. Tippy and have never felt one as deeply as that first read-through of Hamlet.

What about you? Do you have a Mr. Tippy in your life? An exceptional teacher that changed you – if only for a moment?

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