Thursday, September 11, 2008

Good Teachers, Good Schools

On the day after we hear about this ginormous shortfall in the DISD budget that nobody knew about until now, there's bound to be more naysayers about the district. It's sad that a few career bureaucrats managed to screw up so badly, again, at the expense of thousands of children who depend on them. That being said, I thought I'd go all warm and fuzzy by talking about great teachers and schools. After all, it's not teachers balancing this budget - and maybe it would be different if they did. After all, teachers don't make much for the enormous service they provide, and must be masters at crafting a livelihood out of that pay. So this thread is not for diatribes about DISD, or public schools, or anything else. I just want to know this: What teacher had the most impact on your life? How? I'll start. Although Mrs. Kaundart and Ms. Hays were my journalism teachers in junior high and high school, respectively, the teacher that had the most to do with what I do for a living is Mrs. Kropinicki, my fourth grade English teacher at Converse Elementary. She had us write for public consumption - my first taste of such a thing. As a fourth grader, it is no small thing to have something you've written read aloud to your classmates. You're risking social suicide if it is bad or worse - lame. But one day, the assignment was to write a short story. Mine was about a boy who hated broccoli, and when his mother wasn't looking, sneakily tossed his in the garbage. But the broccoli came back to haunt him, showing up at his desk while he did his homework, his bathroom sink while he brushed his teeth, on his pillow as he tried to sleep, mocking him and chatting with him about why the boy threw him away. I turned my assignment in the next day. The day after, Mrs. Kropinicki handed them back - every short story but mine. Mine, she said, would be read aloud to the class. I felt like vomiting. Or dying. Or vomiting and dying. But as she read it, an amazing thing happened. My classmates laughed in all the right places. My humorous short story had the entire class laughing loudly, and this rush came over me. I was hooked. This - writing well enough to connect with people, to evoke some kind of emotion - was what I wanted to do. Forever. So thanks, Mrs. Kropinicki. While later teachers helped me hone my craft, you helped me find it.