Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Every Tuesday night my mom, step-dad, and I go out to eat at The Pizza Joint. A couple of weeks ago my mom mentioned my 11th grade English teacher, Miss Amy Fischer. I thought Miss Fischer was one of the coolest teachers ever and my mom knew it. She then told me that back in the day she worked with someone whose son was my age and apparently hated Miss Fischer, so his mom was always telling my mom what a terrible teacher Miss Fischer was. I was stunned that anyone with a working brain could think Miss Fischer was anything less than extraordinary. When she told me the source of the story I understood the problem: this student defintely was not a rocket scientist. But I still didn't get how he didn't find Miss Fischer fascinating.

This conversation took place more than two weeks ago and it is still simmering on the backburner of my brain, so there must be something unresolved here for me. Miss Fischer dropped out of high school because it bored her. She got a GED and went on to college. There were days that we didn't discuss anything concerning literature or grammar or anything related to "English" at all. I do remember a discussion of what you would do if you found out that this was your last day to live. There was also an entire period devoted to proving that God was real. Miss Fischer wanted us to think for ourselves and not spit up a rehash of what our parents thought because their parents thought it before them and so on. Things sometimes got rocky in her class. And I imagine that all those people who liked everything to be "comfortable" were very uncomfortable when Miss Fischer stood on her desk or swung from the ceiling beams to get unruly students' attention. She also brought in her record player and played things like Alice's Restaurant and Simon & Garfunkel so that we could have a better sense of what the 60s felt like.

Last, but certainly not least, the summer before my junior year, Miss Fischer donated her summer to a program called Outward Bound. Outward Bound is for teenagers who are facing jailtime. They can do the time or do Outward Bound. So the first day of school was a recap of this trip spent on a boat catching your meals, dropping your pants and doing your business over the side of a boat (the worst of horrors to a 15-year-old girl), then being dropped on an island for four days to survive with a partner at the end. I kept saying I'd pick jail when I retold the story, but I secretly admired Miss Fischer enormously for doing this. What I understand now is she was telling us right from go how much she cared without telling us how much she cared.

There are teachers and then there are teachers. Most of them are not Miss Fischers. Most of them are not interested in challenging your personal beliefs or your thinking process. Most of them don't think about the fact that they can impact the person you will be after you leave the institution known as high school. Most of them don't care like she did. Most of them don't see those 45 minutes a day as teaching moments every day. Most of them don't make you better people when you leave their classroom as opposed to just smarter. I have toyed with the idea of teaching off and on since graduating college. It would mean going back to school for education classes, but that isn't why I don't do it. I would only want to do it if I could teach like Miss Fischer. I'm not convinced that in today's society of rules and regulations that Miss Fischer can teach like Miss Fischer.

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