As you read this series I am penning for the archives, please add comments, especially memories of teachers whose names appear in these very personal, perhaps idiosyncratic, ramblings of my forty-one years at the school. I shall copy into a notebook any comments which will be archived. Since the school will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2027, what you and/or I write might provide information for a possible third book about this great place. If you prefer email, feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All emails will also be archived. Thank you.
Let’s cut to the chase: my first year at Graland was a disaster-- a true mea culpa moment in my history as an educator.
My Graland year began on August 15, 1976. After a quick meeting with Mike Teitelman and Tuck Ganzenmuller, I was alone in my classroom, U-51. A quick gander at the bookshelves rendered me almost speechless. I found a collection of short stories I knew -- I was pleased. A few grammar books including Basic Composition, a tattered Warriner’s, and some others whose titles I do not recall. There were some other books I immediately rejected and wondered why they were even in the room -- I had used the texts with some seventh graders whose reading levels were below average. I panicked and began foraging through the rest of the bookcases -- there were few. The books I thought would work were all variation on a theme-- short stories and poems. No novels, not even a play.
I was embarrassed to ask any questions until Mr. Teitelman knocked on the door and asked how I was. He calmed me down a bit and told me I should look in the two rooms and see if there were materials I might use; he also urged me to talk with Dan Barney and Ruth Gorham. I did look in the other two English classrooms in the building, both of which I had seen during my interview. I felt a bit better, but I knew I needed to see Dan Barney as soon as possible -- he had taught two of the sections I was inheriting. In addition, Mr. Teitelman agreed he would authorize funds for books I might want; he also reminded me something I had forgotten. I had sent some titles I wanted to Jane Sanders who had ordered books for me; also, he reminded me that Ruth Gorham and Cathy Peryam had books I could use -- they were “in charge of” me. His words, not mine.
Other than a rather crazy opening meeting at the Denver Art Museum, my first few weeks were tough, very tough. Ruth, Cathy, and Dan were kind and patient; Maureen Micali, the new chair of the English department, was new as well and guided me the best she could. All the teachers I met were wonderful, especially Betty Thompson Tuchman, Charlotte Harper, Mamie Toll, Russ Bissell, and Madame Guiberteau.
The first day arrived and ended. I was shell-shocked on a deserted island; I wanted to return to Philadelphia and walk down Lancaster Avenue. My first ninth-grade class was a disaster. I lacked self-confidence and expertise -- they smelled blood. It was all too apparent that both the eighth graders and the ninth graders missed Dan Barney -- he was a class act! During the first week, one ninth grade boy even reminded me they were the fourth section. In essence, he implied the students were the dregs of the Upper School. They were not; however, they challenged me-- I thank them for that.
That year I existed in a haze; my sustenance was weekends at Graland nd Mary Tyler Moore reruns. I did keep a journal, but years ago, all my journals met a flood. I was a teacher- in-training made a bit better thanks to the effort and patience of many former students and parents as well as my mentor, Ruth Gorham, Tuck Ganzenmuller, and Mike Teitelman never gave up on me.
Onward to year two.