Cogito Patris

Random Thoughts for Random People

More Cute Kid Stories

Melody has started talking a little.  The fun thing is what comes out of her mouth.

“No stop dede’s dink” (No, Stop, Melody’s Drink).  When chasing her brother away from her drink.  She actually hid her drink in a toy tool chest today.

“Uhhh…Don” (Up…Down).  When shining a flashlight on the ceiling, then down to the floor.

“Doahr” (Dora).  Her favorate TV show.

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February 8, 2009 Posted by | Family, The Kids | Leave a comment

An Ode to Miss Konizer

While I was at my mother’s retirement dinner I ran in to some of my old teachers. 

Coach Driskel was retiring as well…I had him for Phys Ed.  Though he “only” taught in phys ed, don’t think that is wasn’t loved by his students.  He was a point of stability, compassion and honesty when a classmate was recently killed in a car accident.

I also ran in to one of my old football coaches, many of my mother’s friends that I recognized and a few teachers I recognized, but never actually had them as teachers.

And then last, and certainly not least, I ran in to Miss Konizer.

I think in everyone’s life there is a teacher that made a bigger impact than the others.  For my bride, it was a third grade teach that saw past her reading issues (my wife was born blind) and got her in to the gifted and talented (GT) program. 

For me, it was Miss Konizer: My 11th grade chemistry teacher.

First, an aside about education system changes.

From time to time I hear about how poorly the American education system stacks up against other education systems in the world.  Often “Average Test Scores” are used to back up this claim.

The easiest, and probably best, explanation for the difference in test scores is that in America, everyone is allowed to continue in education, even if they are not the best.  Japan kicks out most of the kids at the end of elementary school.  As a result, only the best and brightest actually take the test.  In America, everyone takes the test and people who are not cut out for academics will drag down the average score. 

So, many people will say that we should follow the same structure…kick out the kids who are not cutting the mustard.  I have two big arguments against that approach.

First, it puts a lot of pressure on young kids to achieve academic excellence.  While the end result is good…a society with really smart people, the methods tend to eliminate the fun from childhood  and raise the suicide rate (Ok, that is a statistic that I sorta remember from back when i was in school.)

Second, I was diagnosed with Disgraphiabefore my fifth grade year.  Of course I didn’t catch up to my peers before the end of elementary school.  As a result, this proposed system would have washed me out before I really had a chance.  I graduated in the top 25% of my class, I bet that my elementary school and middle school teaches would NEVER have guessed that both because of my learning difference and because I had not reached the appropriate level of maturity yet.

Third, it doesn’t seem fair to hold back an exceptional child because of kids like me who were not yet caught up.  I like the idea of a GT program.  I am concerned that “Standards of Learning” and “No Child Left Behind” are negatively impacting those students who really are exception and have a head start.  They are being asked to slow down, and I don’t think that is right.

Now back to Miss Konizer:

Like I said, I was a late bloomer.  I showed promise in math and science before the 11th grade, in fact, I was quite frustrated with my classmates who didn’t understand Algebra.  I also basically taught my geometry class.  But it was Miss Konizer who recognized me.  She had me take a national association of chemistry test to get a scholarship.  I did quite poorly, but it did give me the confidence that she believed in me.  Then, she did the best thing ever.  She asked me to apply to what was then the Central Shenendoah Regional Governor’s School (Now just Shenendoah Valley Governor’s School)

This was the first year the class would be in existence.  and it was intended to only be for the best and brightest in math and science.  But I didn’t think that I was one of those “Best and Brightest” type people.  Low self esteem and a late start academically had ruined my confidence.  But, she was insistent.  I’m so glad she was.  I got in.  Not only that, but I excelled.  That one event lead me to JMU where I took a chance on another brand new program – Integrated Science and Technology (the second year).  That is where I met my wife and learned the problem solving and computer skills that serve me well to this day.

I recognize that teachers are drastically underpaid (after all, my mother is/was a teacher).  I also recognize that they work primarily for the chance to possitively impact the lives of their students.  That is their motivation.  I also recognize that they don’t get to hear how big an impact they give…at least not often enough.  So when i ran in to Miss Konizer at my mother’s retirement dinner, I told her how big of an impact she had on me and how grateful I am.

However, yet again I stumbled across words that were empty compared to the emotions I was trying to convey.  I think I adequately expressed myself…I’m pretty sure I made her night.  I only wish I could meet my own expectations in this respect.  Whatever the word is that I was trying to define to describe my mother, should be used to describe Miss Konizer as well…

So, to all of our teachers who give us all so much and ask so little, this one’s for you:

Kumtria!

May 1, 2008 Posted by | Family, Random Thoughts | Leave a comment

Gram is Retired…sorta

Last weekend I went to my mother’s retirement dinner with my brother (the wife and kids wisely stayed home).  Interestingly, she doesn’t actually retire until the end of the school year.  I tried to convince her that if she has had a retirement dinner, then logically, she should be retired.

Everybody who retired from the school system was honored at the same time.  That is cool, after all Teachers would have a difficult time without the support staff ready to help.  But it did bother my brother and I that the people who were not at the dinner still got honored.  For that matter, people who “Retired” after 5 years in the cafeteria got the same honors that my mother received.

But, that aside: What struck my brother and I most during the dinner is how many people came up to us to tell us that our mother is awesome. (their words, not mine).  I don’t think that I tell her how much she means to me and my family often enough. 

My mother has been a teacher in one room or another for 39 years (yes, she almost came back for one more to make it to 40).  At the dinner, her principal gave her speech.  My mother doesn’t like a lot of public attention.  her principal knew this so she gave my mother a job of holding the “Power Point Slides”: A picture of Clark Kent and Superman on a piece of paper which she pointed at in a powerful way.  My mother appreciated having something to hide behind. 

During her speech, the principal  mentioned all that my mother does… She has, in the past, taught kindergarden, first, third and fourth grades (I may be missing a few).  She has spent the past twenty(ish) years as a “full time librarian”.  The quotes are because she is also utilized by the administration to pick up reading classes and even a kindergarden rotation when needed.  I consider myself a “Utility Player”, not only in my past athletics, but in my present profession…someone who can jump in and help anywhere I am needed.  I think i get that ability from my mother.

She is also a prop master for the local theater group. 

She volunteers at a children’s museum in Charlottesville. 

And starting next year will be helping at the voting booths.

She enjoys her time with her grand-kids and children whenever possible.  As a matter of fact, she is taking a trip with my bride and our kids to Minnesota to visit the Mayo Clinic (Autism Research Hospital).

She goes to UVa Football and basketball games whenever possible.  Those that have attended realize that her voice can carry more power than the loudest cheerleader.

She has been to more music concerts in the past decade than my brother and I put together…including a concert by the Eagles that is the night before she flies out to meet my wife in Minnesota.  She also took me to Billy Joel last year which I enjoyed to say the least.  For that matter, she took me to a Three Dog Night concert on the lawn at JMU when I was in High School (before I knew I would be attending that distinguished institution of higher learning).  That concert is still listed among her favorites (quite a distinction…trust me) and one of my all-time favorite memories.

She also roots for the Yankees…but I won’t hold that against her.  She at least raised me as an Orioles fan.

The principal asked the current fifth grade class what they thought of Mrs. Morgan.  They kept saying things like “Nice” and “Fun”.  The principal wanted some examples and they couldn’t come up with anything.  Then, one kid leaned over and whispered “She has candy in her desk in the library.”  Just don’t tell the nurse. 😉

Her principal had said that she asked my mother’s friends for some stories to tell, but that they wouldn’t tattle.  My mother’s response was a precisely timed “good friends” just loud enough for everyone to hear.

When her principal was done, one of her oldest friends came to the stage…a semi-recently semi-retired fifth grade teacher whose name is Cookie (I’m not making that up).  My mother’s response to Cookie coming to the microphone was an equally comically timed “But I thought I had good friends!”.

Cookie spoke more about what my mother was.  I had planned on copying the speech word for word, but my mother got the paper and I never got a copy…maybe someone (I know Cookie occasionally reads this blog) can provide it in the comments.

The words that were used are accurate and yet they are inadequate.  Dependable, Passionate, Intelligent…the list goes on.  But trying to sum up my mother isn’t easy.

I didn’t get to witness my mother at school often, but I can see why she would be so revered by her peers and loved by her students.  During story time she will sit in her rocking chair and read a story with all the talent of a Hollywood voice-over expert.  Actually, in my unbiased and expert opinion (that is sarcasm) she is better than any Hollywood type (that is not sarcasm).  In the classroom she becomes an entertaining actress.  She is shy in front of groups, but in front of a class she is outgoing and commands respect and attention.

And then, there is “the look”.

My brother and I always knew we were in trouble when we got “the look” and apparently she still has it.  She was telling my brother and I a story of a child who was in the library listening to another teacher read.  He is a good kid, but was apparently getting bored.  He started to draw on his chair with his pencil and accidentally poked a hole in his seat cushion (brand new this year).  Then, he caught Mrs. Morgan’s eye.  He stopped what he was doing and paid extra special attention to  the teacher for the rest of the class.  My mother quietly took his pencil away from him.  The kid tried to leave without it…I don’t think he wanted to get “The look” again. 🙂

When all was done in regards to my mother at the retirement dinner, the master of ceremonies asked that my brother and I stand.  She mentioned that we had come from quite a distance to honor my mother (on a Thursday night).  A testament to what she means to us.  Then asked that her “Wenonah Family” stand.  These are the teachers and friends she has made in her time teaching (35 of her 39 years were spent at Wenonah Elementary School).  I like that they are referred to as her family…because they are.  My mother is blessed to have such close friends, and they are just as blessed to have my mother as a friend.

I want to conclude with something poetic or at least eloquent to show my appreciation.  But as I said, my mother is not an easy person to summarize.  How do you pay homage to a person who has touched the lives of some may children not to mention their children and even grandchildren?  How can I describe how I feel in having such a wonderful person in my life and how grateful I am to have her as my mother?  My words fail me…mostly because I don’t think there are words that are adequate.  Maybe a new word should be invented for people like my mother.  “Saint” and “Angel” are overused.  Perhaps, the word should be “My Mother”.

May 1, 2008 Posted by | Family, Random Thoughts, The Kids | Leave a comment