It was back to the classroom. Barb Wagner, the Interim Head of School for semester two of the previous year, thought I should return to teaching English; I agreed. My schedule this year was a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
I was teaching sixth grade English for the second time in my Graland career. This was the year of my teaching The Phantom Tollbooth for the first time -- it was one of the holy of holies in the sixth grade curriculum, along with Deathwatch and another novel whose title I can not remember. TPT was such a grueling experience for me that I gave the sixth graders a seventh-grade mythology book and promised them they would be so happy when they impressed Jan Baucum with their prior knowledge of the hero stories -- Perseus, Theseus, Atalanta, Hercules, etc. I had a great time. I was not sure they learned very much, but I knew that Jan or I would fill in the gaps.
I taught two sections of eighth grade English-- possibly, one of the kindest groups I ever taught. This was a group that devoured all the readings, grammar drills, projects with a sense of purpose and joy. I want to write down all thirty-two names, but that might require a mega- exercise way beyond the remaining little grey cells at age seventy-two. So often, I believed they were not typical eighth graders. As always, many, if not all, were whip-smart with a remarkable desire to succeed -- that’s the fabric of Graland School. They were resilient, polite, and happy. Even my advisor group did not complain when I informed them our service learning activity would be on campus-- I wanted them to help me clean the infamous trophy case housed at the entrance to the old cafeteria. There was more encrusted dirt in that case than in Miss Estelle Havisham’s mansion. It was great fun-- I shared stories when I knew the significance of the trophies and smilingly concocted stories about trophies with unknown pedigree. My advisees jumped in and created their own stories for the trophies.
Also, I spent one or two periods a week with Ron Ritchhart’s fourth grade in the old language lab. Spelling and some grammar basics using Let’s Communicate were my tasks -- from time to time, some vocabulary. Scott Fulford and Kevin Butler decided their spelling group would race to see who could finish writing down the word first. I can’t recall why or whether other groups played that game as well.
I thought of Barb Wagner often that year and silently thanked her for urging me to teach English again.
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.