My guest blogger today is Kathy English, one of the very first people I met in the Blogosphere. Or, I guess I was directed to her. Her blog, The Mom Crusades, is filled with funny peeves and basically daily, snarky observations about parenting. Kathy has had a tough year. Last November, her then 9-year-old son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After surgery, hospitalization, radiation, chemotherapy and endless doctor’s appointments, some semblance of normalcy has been restored. Kinda. I was surprised and appreciative when Kathy volunteered to write a teacher memory. She has such an open heart.
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Mrs. Schmidt’s Wonderful World
In sixth grade, I attended a school with three middle school grades sharing the high school building. As a new kid, I quickly learned to avoid the seniors’ hallway, to avoid the principal as he was quick to paddle students for wrong-doings (yes, principals were equipped with wooden paddles back in the day, and they used them). It was the first year I would rotate classrooms, and I had to memorize where all my classes would be and in what order.
I wasn’t ready.
By sheer rotten luck, I was placed in the class of a teacher who’d had one of my sisters a few years earlier. He was one of those people you look at and wonder, “How the heck did THAT guy ever get to be a teacher?” A toothpick grew permanently out of the corner of his mouth, he was sarcastic, and he talked to us with the vocal inflection that automatically let us know he thought we were “duh-mb.”
By sheer blessed luck, a counselor entered my room on the second day of school and asked for volunteers to switch into a self-contained sixth grade classroom in order to even out class sizes. My hand shot up in the air so fast, I felt like I could have touched the ceiling. I had chosen to sit in the back of the room, hoping to avoid the attention of the teacher, but there I was, practically jumping up and down in my seat, Arnold Horseshack style. (Young’uns can google that reference. He’s from the old TV show Welcome Back, Kotter!)
The counselor selected a handful of us, and we grabbed our books and headed down the hall to the wonderful world of Mrs. Schmidt, sixth grade teacher. Mrs. Schmidt was tall and slender, with wild red curly hair, and a commanding presence. She was ready for business from day one, and guided all of us with a firm hand, a sense of humor, and sternness when necessary.
While other kids might have thought it strange that we didn’t change classes or have different teachers, we were in our own little world with Mrs. Schmidt: caught in a happy cocoon of elementary school-like security and sixth grade learning.
During the last week of sixth grade, the school was prepared to hand out various awards at a school-wide assembly. The ever-perceptive Mrs. Schmidt knew that there would be many of us who – literally – didn’t make the grade and would not receive any of those awards. In my scrapbook, I still have four, faded-purple dittoed awards – outlined in crayon and glued onto construction paper, all made by hand and personally signed by Mrs. Schmidt. What are they for? “Scientific Achievement” and “Social Studies Skills”; another stated I was the “Royal Highness of Reading” and declared that I possessed the “Imagination to Travel anywhere and everywhere in the Kingdom of Infinity.” I also earned the award for “Clever Wit.”
Each of the 30 or so students in the class was given at least as many personal awards from Mrs. Schmidt, each read aloud joyfully before being presented, as if it were the first time our teacher had ever given such awards to anyone.
Mrs. Schmidt had a knack for making everyone feel special, for recognizing the individuality in each student and finding a way to nurture it. She was certainly a tough act to follow.
Every time end-of-the-year school award ceremonies roll around, I remember Mrs. Schmidt and how she found something personal about each of her students – to let them know they were recognized and appreciated.
Did you ever win any goofy awards at school? What did you win?
This post brought such a smile to my face. 🙂 I never won any goofy awards at school.. but I did win a few “best speller” and such. But they were run of the mill.
Those handmade awards are awesome. 😀
I won “Best Crab Walker” during field days in 3rd grade. Never anything academic until Phi Beta Kappa many years later. But I agree: handmade awards rock!
I want to be a Mrs. Schmidt, making everyone around me feel special. Mary Kay Ash said to imagine that every person had a sign around their neck stating, “Make me feel special.”
I love that idea. Maybe I will make that sign. Or is that too needy?
That might be a little needy, huh? 😉
I don’t remember winning any awards. I think in the last 25 years that has become more common.
I remember people receiving paper-plate awards from their teachers at the end of the year — and that was back in the late 1970s.
But now they give big trophies. Yes.
One thing my children’s school does is give awards for the Accelerated Reader program – for reaching the yearly goal of however many points (each grade is different) the kids receive a small trophy. They’re all so proud – especially those readers who struggle yearlong to meet that goal.
I was the kid who won most of the awards. Don’t hate me.
And I love these posts!
That’s because you were the goodest student of them all.
And also because you baked them cookies and brought them candies and picked them apples and fresh bouquets, maybe some wheat from the farm. And I know you made your teachers huge hearts made out of construction paper and lace for Valentine’s Day in which professed your love to them. Admit it! 😉
I love this post…bravo, Mrs. Schmidt!
P.S. I didn’t have to Google the Welcome Back, Kotter reference! Off to check out Kathy’s blog!
Kathy has been taking a leave of absence from her blog. I hope she is okay. I hope she comes to see all these comments at some point.
Writer woman, thank you for visiting me – as Renee reminded me, I am very badly MIA — my blog is sadly out of date, and I apologize for missing your comment the day it was posted.
You mentioned teachers who knew your sister. I followed a sister who was always a goodie-goodie, did all her homework and made straight A’s. I made A’s and B’s, occasionally did homework and frequently got in trouble for being the class clown, which made all my teachers comment they wished I could be like my sister. Ugh. But I still love her anyway.
Thank goodness my brother came after me. It would have stink stank stunk to have had to follow in such big goodie-goodie shoes. Perhaps this is why I was the Class Flirt, which made my brother’s teachers relieved when he landed in their classes and remarked how he was nothing like me. 😉
Yes, I think it’s one of the worst things when teachers just assume you’re going to be like the siblings who came before. I think the kids who have a sibling who is always in detention have a harder time of it – they can’t screw up ONE SINGLE TIME without getting the book thrown at them. . .
What a wonderful teacher! I love this and thanks for sharing, Kathy. In 8th grade they awarded me with, “Most Likely To Host the Home Shopping Network.” That one has always stuck out!
THAT is friggin’ awesome! What brilliant teacher had THAT crystal globe… 😉
Thank goodness you had the chance to meet Mrs. Schmidt. I loved math and when I was assigned to a teacher who gleefully announced there would be no homework, I was perfectly dismayed. A few days later I was reassigned to Mrs. Bailey, and I learned Algebra 2 like I knew I was supposed to. We were lucky, weren’t we?
Absolutely! I would have been thrilled to have no math homework, but still – being in Mrs. Schmidt’s class was a blessing in many ways. We did have homework, and she allowed and inspired a creativity that many teachers were ready to be “done with,” dismissing it as “elementary school stuff.”
I enjoyed your recollection of Mrs. Schmidt, especially being a retired teacher myself. My sixth grade teacher, Mrs.Hennessy, was firm but I remember being able to put on plays I wrote and also our assignments usually had a creative requirement to them. Good story! Thanks.
“Royal Highness of Reading”
This award in particular fills me with glee!
I still have my 8th grade journalism class “Most Prolific Writer Award.” (My mom had some words with the teacher over that: “She does more bar none to get that newspaper out than the other kids in here put together, and that’s all you give her?! Maybe she should have written more fashion articles like the winners you nominated?!”)
HA! Hooray! Your mom definitely recognizes talent and ability over “fluff.” hee heee As the spouse of a news reporter, it’s nice to hear this! You definitely deserved a “SOLO GETS THE PAPER OUT” award 🙂