Monday, June 28, 2010

Thank You Mr. Kauzer

Even as adults, decades later, we remember vividly the teachers who scared us, frustrated us, even humiliated us. Unfortunately, all of us can probably remember at least one of those teachers. For every one of those, however, is a teacher who stands out positively in our memory: a teacher who made us want to come to school every day to learn.
Last fall, I found a Facebook page for my former elementary school Twin Creeks, in San Ramon CA. Feeling a bit nostalgic, as I have lost touch with every one of my former classmates due to our family move in 9th grade, I posted an answer to the question: Who was your favorite teacher at Twin Creeks? I wrote excitedly about one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Kauzer, who I was lucky enough to have as my 4th grade teacher and again as my 6th grade teacher.   Mr. Kauzer made school fun..he made it a safe place to learn, a cool place to practice guided visualization for relaxation and an autonomous haven where I could work at my own pace in many learning arenas. I think he even let us make forts under our desks! Hey, it was the early 70's after all.
A few months ago I was contacted by a classmate, Karen, who had Mr. Kauzer the following year. She was happy to reminisce as we messaged back and forth about him and other teachers we had at our little school of portable buildings. We talked about our siblings and classmates we might remember!
This week, I was thrilled to see a message on my Facebook message page, from the one and only Mr. Kauzer. I was taken aback by my intensely emotional reaction: "He remembered me!" I thought gleefully to myself, suddenly transformed back to the 12 year old girl who last saw him at the end of 6th grade. I felt a surge of happiness as I read his message. He really did remember me! I was thrilled to discover that he is teaching, still inspiring kids, though now teaching high school math!
It might seem cliche to others, but I am overwhelmed by the incredible power we have as teachers. I will be "over the moon" with joy to reconnect with former students when they are adults! It's been many years, over 30 (but who's counting), since I last saw Mr. Kauzer. I know that one day when we connect in person, I will immediately recognize him by his warmth and unmistakable smile. He thinks it might be fun to visit my 4th grade class when he retires and I am going to hold him to that idea!

Thank you Mr. Kauzer. Teachers like you have helped me become the teacher I am and the one I'm still striving to be.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mentoring: The Best Gift of All

Ever thought of mentoring? After  having a student teacher for half the school year last year, and having an intern this full school year, I feel energized and rejuvenated.   Having the experience of being with a new teacher as she "learns the ropes"  is one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences ever. Here are some things I learned this year from working with the incredible Miss H.
  1. There's a rationale for everything we do and every way we do it when we teach. When you have an intern, you reflect and share about all of your decisions.
  2. We don't have to be perfect, but always reflecting, striving for excellence and remaining committed to what's best for kids.
  3. Humor goes a long way. Being able to look across the room at another adult during a challenging kid moment and find humor in it gives strength and builds experience for a future challenge.
  4. Support is vital. Mutual support is even better. Teaching can be isolating so we must reach out.
  5. Communication is priceless. Open, respectful dialogue creates trust.
  6. We are always learning from each other: experienced teachers, new teachers, school staff parents, kids. 
  7. There is no hierarchy of experts: we are all learners.
  8. Everyone is on his/her own path: we must accept people where they are and nurture their strengths so they can flourish.
  9. Relationship is everything.
  10. We are never finished learning, growing, crying, celebrating. Savor, savor, savor each day as an opportunity to grow and learn. 
Thank you Miss Harrington for the opportunity to spend a wonderful year together, learning, laughing, crying, and celebrating the joys of our passionate commitment to kids.
If you have ever mentored, either in teaching or another arena, please share what it's done for your growth in the comments section. We learn so much from each other's stories!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Today my class will proudly stand on stage and sing the songs we have been tirelessly learning for weeks. During rehearsal each day I've caught myself getting teary-eyed as I set my eyes upon my students,  reflecting on how far each has come. One of my sweet boys, who often does his "own thing", spinning like a top around the room, dropping a trail of papers under his desk,or eating crayons and other unsavory objects, has learned every word to every song. Yesterday during our rehearsal on the risers, he sang AND proudly performed the hand motions to each song. In his own time, not in the time of the pacing guides, and not demonstrated with a paper and pencil, he has learned. He has blossomed. And he will continue, in his own time and way.
Although today is the celebration of our year in kindergarten, every day can be a day to stop, reflect and admire the growth of our kids. Many will follow a path quite different than the ones we've created for them and that's okay. What matters most is for us to cherish their growth, encourage them to embrace challenges, empower their hearts and minds to strive for the best they can be, today and every day.