Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Spark

Thirty odd years ago, in a fourth grade classroom, in a suburban town in New Jersey, I was a little girl who was learning to hate school. My teacher, Miss H., didn't do much to disguise her dislike of me, and that soon affected my attitude toward formal education. Up till then, my teachers had been kindhearted women that appreciated smart, but soft spoken students like myself. Miss H., my mother theorized, disliked me for not being my older brother, a former favorite pupil of hers. He was everything that I wasn't - confident, eager to share in class, and good at math and science.

Miss H., unlike the teachers I had been used to, was big and stout, with a short, no nonsense haircut. She had a booming voice and wasn't afraid to use it to keep order, or to humiliate some poor, hapless daydreamer. Gulp. We were not a match made in Heaven.

I think I racked up more sick days during that school year than any other, due to mysterious aches and pains that came on suddenly every school morning. With her drill sergeant voice and her total lack of sympathy or imagination, Miss H. came very close to destroying my natural curiosity at the tender age of nine. It was only the fact that I was lucky enough to come from a home where learning was not only valued, it was expected, coupled with ending up with a really good teacher for fifth grade that saved me. Well that and strangely, something that Miss H. herself said, something that has stuck with me all of these years.

I had picked up a bad habit during my sojourn in Miss H's class. I would arrive home on the bus everyday, throw my book bag into my room, and spend hours forgetting that there was any such miserable place as school. It was only when my parents made me go do my homework, that I would force myself to do it, and even then I would race through it as quickly as possible.

One night, after I had been tucked into bed, I remembered with horror that in addition to my regular homework, I was supposed to write a first person essay about someone else's imaginary life. I crept out of bed, and quietly turned on my desk lamp, praying that I wouldn't draw the attention of my parents. I'd already been in plenty of hot water about my grades that school year.

I whipped off a couple of paragraphs about being a professional ballerina, something I knew about only from what I'd read in books. I wrote about sore feet, and stage fright, and the feeling of euphoria that came from dancing for an audience. After a quick rereading, I turned out my light and went back to bed.

The next day at school, I handed in my paper, and prepared for another day of torment. It was during reading group time, one of the few pleasures in my day, that Miss H's sharp voice called across the classroom.

Patty, she asked, Did your mother or father help you with your essay?

Feeling indignant at the implication, I replied, No, I wrote it by myself. I waited for the hammer that was surely going to fall.

How do you know what it feels like to be a ballerina? she asked.

I looked at my feet and whispered, I just imagined how it feels.

To my never ending shock, Miss H. stood up, and announced that she had something to say to the whole class. When she had everyone's attention she proclaimed dramatically in words that I remember by heart, Patty has a God-given gift for writing. She then asked me to read my essay aloud to the class. When I finished she ordered told me that I needed to use my talent and share it with the world.

I wish I could say that my relationship with Miss H. improved and my school year turned around. Neither happened. In the years since however, whenever I think about my dreams, I think about her comment, probably one of the most sincere compliments I've ever been given in my life. She gave me a spark that day, an idea that my natural talent could be valued by others, not just by those that loved me.

Have I used my gift? Well, I'm still trying Miss H., I'm still trying.

What about you? Did you ever recieve encouragement from an unexpected source?

linking to:  Pour Your Heart Out

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Guest Post: The Dastardly Dog

I've been sadly behind in posting lately. Homeschooling has been keeping me extra's quarterly reporting time, and the end of the school year is fast approaching. I hope to be back on track with posting soon. In the meantime, my dog has graciously offered to sit at my laptop today and write a guest post for me. Some of you have already been introduced to her as The Dastardly Dog. Without further ado, I give you Trinket.....

Trinket: Thank you so much for that flattering introduction. I take great pride in my role in the family. You know, a lot of people think dogs have easy lives. Let me assure you that just isn't true. Walk with me, if you will, for a day in my life...the life of a dog.

6:00 am- The alarm clock blares and BadDad gets up to work out. It's hard work to ignore the noise, but I burrow deeper into my blankets and manage to get back to sleep.

7:00 am- WorstMom starts her day. I trot out when I hear her start the coffeemaker. I have to make a quick decision...face going outside now, or bolt for my family room basket? If the weather is bad, I usually try to avoid going out as long as possible.

7:30 am- The kids are stirring now. BadDad heads out for the day. I may see him to the door with a few friendly barks. If I feel like it.

9:00 am- WorstMom is trying to herd everyone up to the schoolroom. Right about now is when I really, really need to go out (perfect timing I know). After I come inside again, I'll pester everyone until they feed me.

9:15 - 11:30 am- Everyone is busy with lessons. I'm busy sleeping in my indoor doghouse in the schoolroom. I like to think my snoring is the perfect white noise to study to.

11:30 am - 12:30 pm- WorstMom throws in laundry, cleans, and starts dinner during her lunch break. I worry that she doesn't have enough to do, so I get her to let me out. After a minute or so I want to come in again. Unless I see a squirrel or rabbit out there. Then I'll bark for awhile to alert the neighborhood. Or, I might take a moment to roll around in something deliciously smelly. The family just loves when I do that!

1:00 - 4:00pm - I have to determine where the family is gathering for the afternoon. If they're reading on the couch, I'll squeeze on there too. If they're back in the schoolroom, that's where I'll be. I'm not one to abandon my post. I'll catch a few more zzzz's while they work.

4:00 - 6:00 pm - This is the danger time. Sometimes they leave the house and accidentally forget to take me. I have to stay focused and watch for any sign of people putting on shoes or coats. The sound of the keys is, of course, a dead giveaway. At the first clue that they might leave I have to follow them around, barking loudly (so they don't forget me). Unfortunately, sometimes this backfires and I end up in my crate. Oh well, it's time for another nap anyway!

6:00 - 10:00 pm - I like to have an early dinner. Sometimes, if I beg enough, more than one person feeds me and I eat twice! By this time, at least some people are usually home and I start my evening routine. I make a choice between the couch or my basket and doze while I wait for the house to quiet down. Eventually I'll trot down the hall to my bedroom basket and call it a night.

Wow! Are you exhausted just looking at my schedule? I know I am! It's been a pleasure to meet you all. Now I'm off for a nap.