Ginny Russell
Friday June 01st 2012, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Michelle flying in just after midnight, my old friend Nancy now of Morro Bay 200 miles south of here dropping by at noon. A great way to start a day.

Then this article arrived in the mail. Ginny Russell was the kindergarten teacher for all four of my kids. Every year her classroom watched the life cycle of silk moths and the slight variations in the silk as they spun, working around and around in their sliced stacked-up toilet-paper-tube sections. There was a guinea pig and/or a bunny every year. One must be gentle, one must not frighten nor chase. Hold them like this so they feel safe and secure. They raised butterflies. They were taught to value living things and themselves.

Ginny mentions her butterfly enclosure in the article; it doesn’t say, but she used it for kids whom she saw needed a moment’s intervention before a coming meltdown–she would grant them butterfly time, where they were to hold very still in that little place and let these beautiful things they had all helped raise land on their hands and shoulders and head, surrounded too by the plants they’d grown to feed the larvae, the butterflies’ kindergarten stage.

The powers that be want the image of a great school at the expense of a real one. Ginny’s pleas to let the kids have a year of productive, learning, playing and learning to socialize went nowhere.

This acknowledged master teacher whom they had had mentor others, who was the very image of kindness with a profound empathy for the children in her care, was told she had to conform to the new high-tech standard and to pretend to be oblivious to the effects of assigning five-year-olds to tracks, to reading achievement levels in front of each other. (In kindergarten!) And her view that children need the realness of the smell of chalk and the feel of a pencil or crayon in their hand was deemed too old fashioned for Silicon Valley.

And so she is out.

Those who want only touch screens for small fingers are the ones utterly out of touch.

Years ago, I wondered how Michelle, my third, would cope with this whole idea of going off to school and all its unknowns for the very first time.

She marched right into that classroom without even looking back to wave goodbye to me: finally it was her turn to be in Mrs. Russell’s room! The silk worms, the bunny… It was hers now!

Both my girls studied biology in their undergrad and you know where they got their good start. I want to show Ginny this: part of Sam’s ongoing trajectory from all that Ginny blessed her life with. She taught my kids to love to learn and to love one another. Even the difficult classmates. “Why do you think Sean acted that way?” They talked it out. Understanding happened.

Love was the language there.

Such a loss. Such a crying loss. I can only fervently wish the decisions could somehow be reversed. And man, did my kids luck out.

9 Comments so far
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What a travesty, and a loss to the children who won’t have her now. Idiots. Children aren’t cookie cutters to be stacked and arranged like dominoes.

Comment by Channon 06.02.12 @ 4:24 am

the entire direction our whole public education system seems to be going just strikes me as WRONG!! I worry about what my grandson will encounter!

Comment by Bev 06.02.12 @ 7:12 am

My first grade teacher was such a wonder–and I got to have her in second grade, too! She and I remained good friends, all her life. She even had a bedroom for me in her home when I was in my forties. God has a special place for loving teachers.

Comment by Sherry in Idaho 06.02.12 @ 7:25 am

Oh, it would be Soooo easy for me to go off on a rant in favor of Ginny!! I ‘taught’ in or was a director of early childhood centers for many years; I also taught several courses in a community college–and my credo was “We are NOT here to prepare the children (not kids!) for kindergarten–we are NOT here to ‘teach’–we are here to let them learn. And there IS a difference. Viva Ginny!

Comment by Abby 06.02.12 @ 8:48 am

Do these people who hand down these teaching edicts have ANY idea what they are talking about? I have serious doubts. To force out such a dedicated, intelligent, knowing, loving teacher is dumb beyond dumb! And somebody ought to let them know!

Now that my steam level has come down,– how fortunate that your youngsters were in her class! I looked (not read) the article in which Sam was involved, and had no idea what it said.

Comment by Don Meyer 06.02.12 @ 9:43 am

I read your post and the newspaper article to my husband and my 11-year-old daughter. Her immediate response was to begin writing a letter to the Palo Alto School District. We live in Missoula, Montana. Her kindergarten teacher had all kinds of nature elements: snakeskins, shells, wasp nests, animal skulls, various classroom animals. She also says that now, with InterWrite boards in the classrooms, her 6th grade teacher still used the overhead projector anyway.

Comment by Elizabeth 06.02.12 @ 12:12 pm

There should be more teachers like Ginny, not less. It is a terrible loss.

Comment by LynnM 06.03.12 @ 12:32 am

No, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO!!!!!!!!!!! How are we going to replace people like her?

Comment by afton 06.03.12 @ 6:15 am

Ginny should become a part of the Alliance for Childhood, an organization that sprung from the Waldorf Early Childhood Association (WECAN). The Waldorf works out of the principles of child development, one of which is that before 7, the child’s work is play, especially outdoor play and connecting with nature. Only when they have had this, are they ready to learn. As a public school teacher and now a Waldorf teacher for the last decade, I can attest to how important this is. The grades students enter first grade ready to learn when they have had this opportunity. Encourage Ginny to check into the many Waldorf public charters that are in her area, as well as Waldorf schools. Her passion and belief has a place there waiting for her!

Comment by Andiknits 06.16.12 @ 9:45 am

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