The math teacher
Wednesday September 09th 2009, 9:09 am
Filed under: Friends,Life

In his honor, I am going to try to get this to post at 9:09 on 9/9/09.  (Did it!)

At the block party Monday, I was talking to a couple who are exactly at the stage I was a dozen years ago: spending afternoons driving kids to sports, music lessons, you name it, go go go.  I told them, Yeah, I used to put 200 miles a week on my car just driving kids, and the husband nodded, So you get it.

Oh yes.

But one of the things that concerned the mom was, as their first kid headed into high school, how do you stay engaged with the school environment the way you did when they were in elementary?

The short answer, of course, is, you don’t.  You can volunteer here or there, you can be very active on the scene, but you can’t stay involved in everything to the same degree you did when there was just a single teacher in your child’s life.

And yet, I told her. Let me tell you a story.

My oldest had had a friend whom I often dropped off on our way home in the afternoons; no big deal to me, and an easy way to get to know my daughter’s friend a little.  (There are no school buses–Proposition 13 got rid of those in the 70’s.)

One day Sam and Jo were late coming out.   Really late.  There were things to get to, reasons to get uptight.

And yet, somehow that day, I just didn’t.  I told the other kids, who were already in the car since the younger schools let out first, Dunno what the holdup is, but whatever, they’ll show up, they know we’re here.

When they did, I saw Jo a step ahead walking towards our car because Sam had taken a step behind her in order to privately shake her head and wave her arms frantically at me in a silent, fervent plea: Mom! Don’t be mad! (Okay, the fact that she felt she needed to should tell you right there that I was hardly a perfect parent.)

But mad?  Nah.  Totally relaxed.  Good to see you, girls, how ya doin’, isn’t it a beautiful day out today?

They got in, I took Jo home, and then Sam could finally let it out. She told me Jo had had a particularly hard day and that Mr. Hodges, their math teacher, had taken the time after school to let the kid spill her guts and listen to her.  He had made it very clear she mattered to him for those 40 minutes and that she could come talk to him anytime.  And this was a proud new dad who would want to hurry home to his baby, so I knew what it had taken for him to do that.

Okay, for this next part, before you get too impressed, understand that I had wanted to do this for quite some time and had been looking for an excuse.  I made half of these for us.  So.

The next day I made a double batch of cinnamon rolls.  Now, when I make cinnamon rolls, they’re more a pastry than a bread and they are *good*.  I timed them to come out of the oven just so, popped them out of the pan, and drove to the high school and parked. When the kids showed up, I asked where Mr. Hodges’ classroom was, quick, before he goes home!

To say he was blown away does not begin to tell it.  Still-hot cinnamon rolls? Homemade just for him?  For talking to someone else’s kid, even?!

I told him, for my kid too: Sam knows now that if she has a problem and needs an adult to talk to, you’re absolutely someone she can turn to.  That is the greatest gift a parent of a teenager could ask for, and I wanted to make clear how grateful I was for that.  And for Jo’s sake too.

He couldn’t get over it.  He told me  that in his years teaching he had, a few times, had parents send him a fruit basket or some such, but not once–not ever–had a parent actually sought him personally out to thank him in person.

To which I would say, about time!

15 Comments so far
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My husband teaches high school – sciences of all things. And he remembers the kids who thank him with gifts not because of the gifts but because so few thank him at all. I KNOW he remember when the parents do it, because there aren’t that many who ever have. That was an awesome thing to do. On behalf of teachers, Thanks!

Comment by Candy 09.09.09 @ 9:51 am

I think maybe I should go email a few old teachers now . . .

Comment by Lanafactrix 09.09.09 @ 9:54 am

Nobody is a perfect parent. Just had to point that out. 😉

Comment by amy 09.09.09 @ 10:07 am

This made me think of Miss Ryan, who has been much on my mind lately. She was the first math teacher I ever had who understood how I thought. “Patricia,” she said, “you are making this too much work. It’s just puzzles.” I had permission to play! I went from an “F” to an “A” in one quarter, and was sailing happily into beginning trigonometry at the end of the year. Alas, she didn’t teach the next subject, and my bad habits returned, but I am back in school and taking math, and doing my best to remember it is just puzzles and I can have fun with the numbers. A good teacher is a wondrous gift.

Comment by Patty Day 09.09.09 @ 10:28 am

There are okay, bad and excellent teachers. The first two get paid back with the paycheck. The latter deserve and appreciate the few times we say thanks. Good for you not letting the moment slip by un-thanked.

Comment by Toni Smoky-Mountains 09.09.09 @ 10:37 am

Awesome. It was about time!

Comment by Alicia 09.09.09 @ 10:49 am

Shame on those other parents. The best teachers deserve to hear that the parents appreciate their efforts.

Comment by Channon 09.09.09 @ 10:52 am

Wow! What a marvelous story! Just like you to reward the gentleman that way. I would guess he would never forget.

From the other side of the coin, so to speak, for some years I taught accounting at the community college level. This particular class was in the late afternoon, and the students were mostly adults. There was one Asian Indian woman who was not keeping up. She would not participate in class discussions, and her midterm grades were miserable. About two weeks before the final, she came to me in tears, explaining that if she didn’t pass, … and she told me of some dreadful plight that would befall her — I don’t recall what it was. I explained to her that she had to show some proficiency in the work in order for me to give her a passing grade, and then suggested I would give her some special assignments to complete to make up for her previous deficiencies.
She accepted that, and turned in the assigned work on time.

I gave the final one session before the end of the semester. The young lady passed the final, as well as the assigned work, and after the other students left that last day, she presented me with a small package, and thanked me. I unwrapped it at home and found a beautiful little box with hinged lid. That lid was inlaid with some beautiful artwork. I still use it.

And now you want something funny?

Walking into the bar, Mike said to Charlie the bartender, “Pour me a stiff one – just had another fight with the little woman.” “Oh yeah?” said Charlie “And how did this one end?” “When it was over,” Mike replied, “she came to me on her hands and knees. “Really?” said Charlie. “Now that’s a switch! And what did she say?” She said, “Come out from under the bed!”

Comment by Don Meyer 09.09.09 @ 3:54 pm

What a great story! I never got homebaked goodies! I did have parent call me every so often to thank me for recommending a parenting book I personally used to help her understand her teenager. She would call to discuss it with me and at the end of the conversation she would say, “God bless you!” I always thought that was a gift in itself! Thanks for sharing the story. It just illustrates that every act of kindness begets another one.

Comment by Robin 09.09.09 @ 6:06 pm

Wonderful story! I bet that the thank you has stayed with him too.

Comment by TripletMom 09.09.09 @ 8:27 pm

As a teacher, I appreciate it when either parents or kids show gratitude…in ANY way…what can I do to score those cinnamon rolls?

Comment by Ruth 09.09.09 @ 8:29 pm

When you teach special education you are very often forgotten – you are the “extra teacher” that no one wants to remember that their child needs (I’m not talking about self-contained programs, just pull outs.) So during parent conferences I would roam the school talking to other teachers and parents that were with them to try and sneak in a comment or two about their child. I heard over the intercom “Ms. Koontz, please report to your room.” Oh heavens! That was scary. Off I scurried. There in my room was the step-father of a little girl that I was moving out from the program into complete regular education. He said “Ms. Koontz, I came in to see one person today – you. I wanted you to know how you are the ONLY teacher that ever saw the potential in Michelle and convinced her that she can do it. We are moving a couple islands South but I told the new school – contact Ms. Koontz – listen to HER – and THEN figure out what program to put Michelle into.”

He awkwardly patted me on the shoulder and left.

I cried.

Comment by afton 09.10.09 @ 4:22 am

Others have stated the importance of teachers and thanking the good and great ones, so I’ll touch on the parenting side.

Your comment about not being as involved as they hit high school resonated. It’s true. You can still do some chaperoning and that is great, but not having mom/dad there as much is part of a child’s growing up that they need to do. It is very scary, but by letting go a little in high school, you prepare them so much better to be independent in college or wherever else life takes them after 12th grade.

Comment by twinsetellen 09.12.09 @ 6:52 am

I am one of the parents who have sent fruit baskets instead of personally going up to thank my children’s teachers. I really though a teacher would have appreciated receiving an edible arrangements.

Comment by Fruit Basket Review Guy 09.14.09 @ 10:04 pm

If you read it a little less defensively, sir, you’ll be able to see that he was delighted to have received such a gift, he remembered it and was glad for it–but the gift of my time and my actual presence in saying thank you personally of course meant more to him than any physical thing–including my cinnamon rolls.

Comment by AlisonH 09.14.09 @ 10:26 pm

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