In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the amazing, inspiring, selfless, heroic teachers out there in the trenches. I stand in awe of them.
There is just something magical that happens when a teacher really connects with their students. I remember vividly the first time it happened for me. My little hippy grade school in the mountains of Northern California. Fifth grade. Ms. Surmani. She made me crave reading, encouraged me to spend every spare moment writing, escorted me on a field trip to San Francisco which kicked off a lifelong love affair with the city by the bay, and taught me a song about banana slugs that still rattles around in my head almost 30 years later. (It was a catchy.) She was “the one,” a total and complete game changer.
So it’s been poignant to watch my nine-year-old daughter have the very same experience this year. She is wholly and completely smitten with her funny, loving, interesting, tough (in the best possible way) 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Mabry. (Truth be told, I might be a little smitten with Mrs. Mabry too.) She’s made a connection, one that will forevermore change the way she thinks about learning. It is exciting stuff.
On the way into work today, I listened to a story on NPR’s Morning Edition about Jake Scott, a high school algebra teacher and wrestling coach in Silver Spring, Maryland who is attempting to connect with his students in a somewhat unconventional way. He, wait for it, raps to keep them engaged. He even has an alter ego, 2 Pi. I have to admit, at the start of the story, I was dubious. A rapping teacher? It just sounded, well, cheesy. But Jake Scott is good. He’s smart, realistic, funny, engaged, and dude can rap. He has skills. (Disclaimer: I am admittedly not an expert on the musical genre, so my assessment of his rapping abilities is purely subjective.) He made me want to take his algebra class stat, and I h.a.t.e. math. Jump over and listen, and you will too.
So to the heroes, to those that connect and inspire, to the fallen teachers in Connecticut, to Ms. Surmai and Jake Scott and Mrs. Mabry, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.