MEMORIES: 1980-1981

After spending the summer reading a curious mixture of classics, mysteries/thrillers, and Greek mythology and visiting Prudence and Fortitude at the New York Public Library, I was “pumped,” as the athletes might say for the school year. I had outlined in my inimitable scrawl all the mythology books I had read/reread that summer-- Robert Graves, Bernard Evslin, Roger L. Greene, Olivia Coolidge, and Doris Gates. Some might call my reading so many mythology books foolish or obsessive. This glorious obsession stemmed not only from my adoration of Greek mythology but also from my finally understanding how damn bright these Graland kids were. They deserved my best.

I began the year with glorious determination, even though there were rumbling rumors that many of the seventh graders were worried about having Mr. Hickey as an English teacher. I gather that telling the sixth graders the previous spring they would have a quiz on the first day of school did not quell concerns. Should I add I was joking when I told the sixth graders their first quiz would demand memorizing Elizabeth Taylor’s married names? Besides, reciting or writing “Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner” would be fun-- a way to discuss the importance of memorizing, a skill that was alive and well in the 80’s. If it were not for the mighty Frick and Frack reciting these names in the middle of the US hallway, I would have forgotten what I said the previous spring.

I decided that C-A-L-M would be my mantra, the new Philip William Hickey. Lasted a period, if that. Let me explain: I tended to be a bit hyperactive, especially when I taught. I ranted, raved, bellowed, and from time to time jumped on chairs.  It was not an act. Even though my teaching style according to one parent bordered on a “dervish ambling among a series of tornadoes,” I loved my classes and strove to meet their needs -- and mine. There were seventh graders who were actually relishing grammar. Ladies and gentlemen, I was plowing through scads and scads of material. My grammar book collection was battling against my mythology books.

However,  I was losing some of my students and needed to rethink how and what I taught. Certainly, there were better ways to engage students and foster one’s responsibility for learning. Thanks to advice offered by Tim Johnson and Mike Teitelman, I knew what my summer work, my next steps, would be. I had “a lot” to learn.

Would I leap?  I did leap into the world of educational tomes that summer. Other than two educational courses at St. Joseph’s College and the History of Roman Catholic Education in America at Iona College, I was unskilled in that area. I thought Piaget was a French film director-- wrong on two counts.

Graland Country Day School

55 CLERMONT STREET    DENVER, CO 80220    303.399.0390   
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.