Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BEST ELEMENTARY TEACHERS

My life of education that included first grade through sixth grade were spent at Symington Elementary School.  Symington was a fairly new school when I was attending as the Hickman Mills School District was taking in the baby boomers and growing at a rapid pace.  The district was growing as houses continued to be built to the south of the city to accommodate families whose fathers were coming back home from World War Two and Korea in the fifties.  By the time I arrived at Symington, the great tornado of fifty seven had already gone through and destroyed much of the school district and recovered while the community had rebuilt and began to thrive again.

Symington Elementary was named in honor of one of Missouri's better known Senators, Stuart Symington.  He was well known and well respected throughout the nation.  He ran for President twice, and was the country's first Secretary of the Air Force.

The area had been incorporated by Kansas City but the school district remained disconnected from the city.  The residents of Hickman Mills and Ruskin wanted to hold onto their schools.  It was a wise move that the community accomplished as their school taxes were not going into the Kansas CIty School District, but rather the dollars were staying to build their own schools.

The Hickman Mills District drew some very good teachers when it was still fairly new.  Nearly all of the teachers I had made a profound mark on my life as I grew.  This post is about five of the teachers I had while attending Symington.  I have already written about some of them and in the future have plans to go into a detailed discussion about how some of these teachers had an effect on me.  For now though, it will only be a short description of these teachers and the basics of what I remember being the main remembrance of what I learned from them. )Later I plan on doing the same thing in regards to my high school years at Ruskin).

#5 - MR MADISON:  Coach Madison came to teach at Symington during the year I was in the fifth grade.  Coach Madison was a fairly stoic man who took his job of teaching physical education to young kids very seriously.  I am tempted to say it could have been his first job in the teaching field but that is just a guess on my part.  I remember that Coach Madison brought out in me the desire to step it up a notch while doing athletics.   The fifth and sixth graders played intramural football and basketball during the year.  During the intramural seasons, coach would stay late and put in extra time so that his students could learn competitive sports.  It was with Coach Madison that I first discovered that I had a talent and a love for basketball.  He encouraged me in basketball both my fifth and sixth grade years and during my sixth grade year, he would let me and a couple of other kids stay late to just shoot hoops while he cleaned up the gym before heading home.  When I left Symington to go to Smith-Hale Junior High School, he asked a friend and myself if we wanted to referee the intramural basketball games that year.  We took this as a great honor as we gathered our new found power and used it to keep kids who were where we once were, in line.  It was also during this time that I learned I could run long distances better than average.  Long distance in Elementary school was only six hundred yards, but I was consistently in the top three when we ran the six hundred.  I would carry this with me as I grew older and would run on my own or with Ronnie.  Coach Madison was still teaching at Symington during the six years that my son attended there.  My son had the same experience with Coach Madison that I had, indicating how consistent the coach was during all of his years at the school.

#4 - MRS. WINGATE:  When I was first thinking about the teachers at Symington, I found I had a tendency to disregard Mrs. Wingate.  She was my sixth grade teacher and she could be tough.  She wasn't a very fun teacher.  She forcefully kept us in line everyday.  Even recess was something that was meant to be taken seriously.  You go outside to excersize, not to stand around and talk.  She would call us out during class time if we were not paying very close attention to the lessons.  I remember one day I was flirting with my longtime classmate Karen, when Mrs. Wingate got to the point of having enough of it.  She called me on my actions in front of the whole class, embarrassing both Karen and myself.  (If Karen is reading this, well I am sorry for that).  Looking back on the year with Mrs. Wingate though, I find that she had a big job to accomplish with her sixth graders.  She had the task of not only teaching us what we were supposed to be learning as sixth graders, but to take us to the next level of maturity to prepare us for what we would face as seventh graders the following year.  This would be the last year that we would have one teacher all day long.  It would be the last time that we would do homework for one teacher knowing how to do it because we knew what that one teacher expected.  The next year would find us at Smith-Hale Junior High where we would have five or six different teachers during the day.  We would have homework assigned from these teachers who didn't necessarily know how much homework the other teachers were putting on us.  We would be moving from classroom to classroom five or six times a day.  She spent the year teaching us to have confidence and do homework that is assigned and do it on time.  She taught us how to jump quickly from subject to subject and to keep our thought processes on track. Her class was the jumping off point to a new way of education that was foreign to us but would become the norm for the rest of our academic lives.   Mrs. Wingate probably had the toughest job of all my teachers up to this point and looking back, she did a fine job of it.

#3 - MR. ALLARD:  I probably had less class time with Coach Allard then any other teacher during my years at Symington, but he, along with his wife, had a substantial influence on my life not only in school but outside of school as well.  He started out as a sixth grade teacher who my sister had when she was at Symington.  He then switched over to physical education for a year, maybe two years, and that was where my contact with him happened.  While in school as a gym teacher, his main thing was to teach you to enjoy life, to have fun and not to take yourself too seriously.  He had a great sense of humor that could embarrass you but at the same time you would realize that while he was taking the time to do that, it would be because he liked you and respected you.  Of course he demanded respect in return and he got it from every kid who had contact with him.  He did all of the things that were required of a gym teacher, but when he had the time he would go way outside the box and have some fun with games.  Outside the classroom, he had his own kid's sports organization called Jays Athletic Club.  He would take kids that he taught and invite them to join.  It was through the club that Mr Allard was able to continue teaching the things he had taught us in school.  He had a boys football team, a couple of baseball teams, a girls softball team and a girls basketball team.  While he coached us outside of school he emphasized the meaning of team play.  No one player was greater than the team as a whole.  It took the whole team to achieve success and to have fun.  This was the main lesson I learned from him and it has served me well as I have grown into an adult and started a career.  Teamwork is essential for success and sometimes you may be required to make a sacrifice for the team to succeed.  I still carry this very important lesson with me to this day.  Thank you Mr. Allard.  In my mind, you are a great man.

#2 - MRS. FITZWATER:  Mrs Fitzwater was my fourth grade teacher and the first teacher I remember that encouraged her students to use their spare or free time doing something productive.  Mrs. Fitzwater's definition of being productive in the classroom was to read books.  She had more books in her classroom than the school library had.  Okay, I am sure that is not true, but at the time it seemed like it.  Whenever we got an assignment finished before the allotted class time for the assignment had expired, she would ask us if we had something to read.  If we didn't, she would send us to the back wall to find something to read.  She had a collection of books that covered almost any topic.  She had fiction and non-fiction, history and science and even some books about sports.  She also kept a small pile of magazines that were constantly circulated into the classroom and then out, keeping a fresh supply at all times.  The second half of the year, she began to give us extra credit, to a point, for book reports that we would do on our own time.  No one was to be idle in her classroom.  If you had nothing else to work on, there was always a book that needed reading.  Going into her class that year I had already developed a penchant for reading.  I loved books and so when I discovered her collection of books along the back wall, I was in heaven.  Sometimes I think she made extra time for assignments knowing that the majority of the class would complete it long before time was up, thereby ensuring that most of her students had a portion of the day to read.  It was being in the atmosphere of Mrs Fitzwater's class that cemented my love of reading into being a part of my life even today.  By her insistence that we read and that we learn the joy of reading, her teaching me has lasted long after I left her classroom for the last time.  In a way, she is still teaching me today.

#1 - Mrs. Bledsoe:  I was extremely nervous the first day that I walked into my third grade classroom for the first time.  I think it was because of the placement of the room.  One wing of the school housed all the first and second graders.  The other wing was where the fourth and fifth graders resided while the sixth grade classrooms were in the basement.  The third grade rooms were kind of spread out between the two wings in spaces that were situated around the main entrance, the gym and the cafeteria line of the school.   It made going into the third grade feel like a period of transition between the little kids and the older ones.  It was time to really start learning. or that is how it felt at the time.  Mrs Bledsoe was young and dedicated to her job.  She was sensitive to each of her students during the course of the year.  She was never too busy to give us some one on one time if we needed it.  The big thing I remember learning in her class was mathematics.  She was introducing us to our first complex thinking in math in the form of base systems.  This was part of the "new" math that was coming out at the time.  Teachers were teaching better and faster ways to solve problems than the old standard methods.  Today, the new math is old I suppose, but at the time, the new math presented a whole new way of thinking about mathematics.  Sometimes it had the effect of confusing parents who were trying to help their children with their homework.  Mrs Bledsoe knew how to teach.  She had a special way of communicating ideas to us third graders.  She always seemed acutely aware if something was not being understood by the class, no matter what the subject.  She seemed to always make sure that we "got it".  I did a lot of growing up that year in her class.  I learned a lot about myself under her guidance.  Her class was indeed a transition class, and she made the transition seem flawless.  In my mind through all the years, Mrs. Bledsoe stands out as a very special teacher.


Friday, October 12, 2012

BETTING ON THE FUTURE CAN BITE YOU

Once upon a time the college sporting scene was stable.  There were plenty of conferences who were more or less equal with each other in varying sports.  Everyone knew which college was in which conference and things were right with the world.  Then there came a small hiccup in the conferences that no one foresaw the effect it would in the future.

The Southwestern Conference which included mostly Texas schools and Arkansas collapsed.  It was losing money at a rapid pace and so the members of the conference decided to disband.  The various schools joined other conferences.  The Big Eight became the Big Twelve as it absorbed the majority of the Southwestern Conference.  Arkansas went to the Southeastern Conference allowing it to grow and strengthen itself a bit.  After that for several years things seemed to settle back down and the Big Twelve became just as natural as it was when it was the Big Eight or the Big Six.  Once again things were alright in the college sporting world.

Then a few years back, schools began to jump conferences on a whim.  Nebraska left the Big Twelve to join the Big Ten and Colorado saw a better future in the PAC Ten then they had in the Big Twelve.  Suddenly rumors were running rampant on many other schools leaving the conferences they were in to join other conferences.  Missouri was caught up in this as it was speculated that they would join Nebraska in joining the Big Ten.  It didn't happen though and it seemed like the Big Twelve was stable once again and that Missouri would stay there forever and continue the strong rivalry with Kansas.

It was about this time when I was making one of my visits to see my sister and her kids and grand children in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide.  One night I was talking to my nephew Hayden about football.  Oh he was going on and on about how great Alabama was and how they could and would beat Missouri in football anytime, anywhere.  He was so confident he offered a bet to me.  His bet was that if Alabama ever played Missouri, which ever one of us lost would have to wear the other's colors for a full year  Meaning if Alabama won, I would wear Tide gear for a year but if Missouri won, he would have to wear Mizzou gear for a year.

I thought this over and decided to take him up on his little bet.  After all, my reasoning went, the chances of Mizzou and Bama meeting on the football field were extremely remote and if they did ever play, surely it would be in a bowl game when the two teams were more or less evenly matched.  The bet was made and forgotten.  Well it was forgotten in my mind, but Hayden never forgot.

As the years went by Alabama began going through one of their power cycles in football.  They were always ranked in the top five it seemed.  Missouri wasn't doing too bad either.  They were consistently in the top fifteen and once were ranked number one for awhile.  Still the chances of the two teams meeting seemed a little far fetched.

Then disaster happened.  The Southeastern Conference decided to expand.  They offered a spot in their conference to the Big Twelve's Texas A and M which the Aggies jumped on immediately.  Then came something I wasn't prepared for or expecting.  The SEC came calling on the doorstep of Missouri.  What this meant was that if Mizzou joined the SEC, they would be in the same conference as Alabama, increasing the chances of a game between the two.

When Mizzou did join the SEC I was relieved that they were put in the opposite division of Alabama.  This meant they would only play Bama once every five or six years, which would buy me time for Mizzou to improve in football and for Bama to slip a little.  All was not lost.

During the time negotiations were going on for Mizzou to join the SEC, Alabama won a National Championship and made a run at another one.  I had to pray that it would be awhile before Missouri found Alabama on their schedule.  Last year Missouri was moved over to the SEC and the football schedules were released.  My heart sank as I looked at the schedule and saw that on my birthday of the year 2012, Alabama would be coming to Columbia to play Mizzou.  To make matters worse, Alabama won their  second National Championship in three years as last season closed out.

I began telling Hayden that we never specified FOOTBALL as the event in which Mizzou would meet Bama.  We hadn't specified any event at all.  Missouri was ranked in the top five in Gymnastics, baseball and softball as last year started to wind down.  I began hoping that Mizzou would meet Bama in one of these sports where they had a fighting chance.  It didn't happen.  As a matter of fact, Bama won the Softball National Championship without having to face Mizzou.  They won the Gymnastics Championship.  They did have a meet with Mizzou and Mizzou lost but I then reasoned that the Gymnastics loss did not count because a ball wasn't used in the sport.  I set my sights on a probable softball meeting between the two schools, but Mizzou got knocked out of the tournament early as Bama went on to win it all.  The next time that Mizzou would meet Alabama would be on the football field in Columbia on October 13, 2012.

I have talked to Hayden and his little brother Conner since then and they are ready.  As I was talking trash to Hayden on Skype one night about the bet, Conner was leaning over the back of the chair pointing his finger at me and yelling, "You're going DOWN Uncle Bill ... you are GOING DOWN!"

Well, the devil has come to collect his dues this weekend.  Alabama is undefeated and ranked number one in the country as they come to Missouri to play.  Missouri has played, and lost, three SEC football games already.  Alabama comes in off of a week off and well rested.  MIssouri enters the game after a disappointing loss to Vanderbilt.  Mizzou;s offensive line is in tatters from injuries and will be forced to use freshman on the line.  Not only that, but Mizzou's great Quarterback, James Franklin, is injured and will not play leaving Missouri with a freshman to guide the team against the number one ranked defending National Champions.

It doesn't bother me to wear Alabama attire. I do a lot of the time anyway between my hats and t-shirts.  I try to keep finding these little things that makes Hayden winning the bet a good thing for the kid.  I can handle the loss.  I have already accepted the fact that it is going to be a disaster on Saturday.  I am ready to pay the devil off for making a foolish bet several years ago on the future with my nephew.  It will be good for his confidence to beat his Uncle Bill.  It will be a good, fun day for both Hayden and Conner.  They will sit in front of their television in Northport, just outside of Tuscaloosa, and have a fun time watching Bama beat up on a helpless Mizzou team.  They will have some laughs thinking about poor Uncle Bill sitting up in Kansas City watching Bama reign supreme over the Tigers of Missouri.

I can deal with it.  I don't think it will bother me at all.  The fact that Missouri is starting their affiliation with the SEC with four consecutive losses will not effect my emotions at all.  At least one time a day for the next year I will proudly put on a Bama cap for a few seconds to fulfill my payment of the bet.

The lesson learned?  We never know what the future holds.  Because we never know what will be happening years down the road, it is probably best not to make a bet on the future with a ten year old from Alabama.  I can promise that it will never happen again.

Happy Birthday Uncle Bill ... and welcome to the SEC.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

SO IT'S OCTOBER

Here I sit knowing I haven't written an entry in quite a while.  It isn't that I have not wanted to write because I have.  Now we are close to halfway through October and I haven't made an entry for the entire month.

I can think of several reason that I haven't written.  One thing is that I am really trying to keep from writing about politics.  I know I have written a couple about politics, but it was because I felt something needed to be said.  Truth is, this election year has disgusted me more than any other election I can remember.  From the Presidential campaign down to my Representative in the U.S. House have been so lacking in class that it isn't worth talking about.  I will vote, but I am trying not to get too involved in it this year.  The toughest race in Missouri this year is a Republican who has made national headlines for stupidity and an incumbent Democrat who says one thing while doing the opposite for the last six years.


Then there is the fact that I could write entry after entry about Missouri's first year in the Southeastern Conference in spite of losing their first three SEC games with Alabama coming to visit this weekend.  I could write about hoping for an upset that will not happen Saturday.  What I am too aware of is the fact that I could really burn out some of my readers on the topic and have to defend my statements about the upcoming game after the massacre is completed.

I could write some more about the heart attack that struck me on August 28 and the rehab I am going through right now to get myself back to healthy.  I could write about the changes in excersize and diet
and how I am feeling the effects of everything that comes along with a heart attack.  I plan on writing about those topics in the future.  It seems like I still have a lot to learn about what happened to me though and feel it would be better if I had a better understanding of it.

The World Series is coming up and I imagine I will be writing some about baseball in the next few weeks.  I thought about writing about Detroit's Cabrera winning the Triple Crown in baseball and how it is the first time that my son ever saw a Triple Crown winner in his lifetime.  Although I am very happy to see someone win the Triple Crown after all these years, it also has a sad side to it for me.  You see, the last time someone won a Triple Crown was way back in 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski took the Triple Crown.  If you have been reading me for a good while, you then know that Yaz was and is and always will be one of my biggest heroes from the world of baseball.  Yaz is no longer the last player to win the Triple Crown.  I am dealing with that.

I could write about depression and anxiety but even I get tired of writing about that part of my life.  It is so depressing sometimes.

A post about the trees changing in Missouri this fall would be rather bland.  The summer drought started taking the beauty out of the trees about the last week of July.  The blandness of the trees are carrying through to the fall.  The colors just aren't quite as bright as they usually are and they are changing color much slower.  It is the blandest fall I can remember in this wonderful beautiful state.

I thought about posting a poem or a song, but that is the lazy way out of writing.  It has been so long since I have written I feel like I should at least make an effort to write something intelligible instead of putting up someone else's words.

The Supreme Court is busy hearing arguments now and there are going to be some big cases that could effect all of us in the United States.  I am looking forward to this term of the Court.  Since the Chief went rogue on conservatives to end last years session, everyone who follows the court is watching with great interest to see how he responds during this term.

 So you see, I do have a lot to write about.  I am not sure which topics I want to hit and in what order.  I will address these things though and now that I have got something written down, I am hoping it will break up the writer's block that I am fighting.

So this is the first entry for October of 2012.  It is a post about nothing.  It worked for Seinfeld, I see no reason why it shouldn't work for me.

Now I make a promise.  Not a promise to my readers, but a promise to myself.  I am going to get back on the writing train.  There are a lot of things that have happened as I described, but there are also a lot of things that are going to happen.  Time for me to get back on top of things.

Thanks for the patience.  I say that to you, as well as myself.