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Paul Turner: Encourage students to say ‘Thank you’ to a great teacher

Kindergarten teacher Elizabeth Coyote, left, walks around her classroom with Gabe Zobrist, 5, and looks at letters he will need to study as part of his homework Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 at Wilson Elementary School in Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Kindergarten teacher Elizabeth Coyote, left, walks around her classroom with Gabe Zobrist, 5, and looks at letters he will need to study as part of his homework Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 at Wilson Elementary School in Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The last week of school has something of a reputation.

You know. Bonehead antics, mindless mischief and the opposite of a laser-like focus on scholastic pursuits.

But it also presents an opportunity. The last week of school is a chance for students to say “Thank you.”

Is there a teacher who made a difference? A coach who believed in your child or grandchild? A custodian who offered some good advice? A band director who acquainted your son or granddaughter with the concept of high expectations?

This might be the week to express a little gratitude. Yes, there could be other chances down the road to say something. But nothing is certain.

The teacher might move or retire. The student’s family might relocate to another school district.

You never really know what might happen over the summer.

OK, not all kids are adequately poised or self-aware to seize the moment and approach a teacher one-on-one. Shyness can trump the best of intentions.

So maybe this is something you might want to talk about with the school-age kids in your family. You know, give them a little nudge.

Not all teachers are remarkable. But some are. And if a child in your family has been lucky enough to cross paths with a really good one, encouraging that student to acknowledge this might be the thing to do.

Trust me, a kid who thanks a special teacher will never regret it. But a student who always meant to say something and never quite got around to it can carry that regret for many, many years.

I’ve written about the theme of thanking teachers several times over the years. Here’s one story I always remember, from 2012.

David Valandra was in junior high in Skyway, Wash., back around 1960. He had a history teacher named Donald Bradshaw.

“I was just kind of cruising through life,” wrote Valandra. “I was not being very serious in the classroom and so was not very disciplined.

“That all changed one day after smarting off in class a few times. Mr. Bradshaw asked me to step in to the hall. I thought I was going to the office and we all know what happens there. Not so this time.

“Mr. Bradshaw came out into the hall, shut the door behind him and grabbed the front of my shirt and slammed me into the wall. That got my attention.

“He went on to explain how disappointed he was in my classroom conduct and how he felt that I had great potential and should apply myself in all that I try in life.”

Valandra did not go home and insist that his parents sue the school district. Instead, he cleaned up his act.

And he never forgot Mr. Bradshaw.

Multiple choice

What did you learn from your first paycheck job as a teenager?

A) To hate your boss. B) A new definition of boring. C) The importance of academic achievement. D) How important it is to choose the right role model. E) What being tired actually feels like. F) Nobody wants to hear excuses. G) School isn’t so bad. H) What it’s like to smell of french fries all summer. I) The whole working class hero thing is harder to pull off if you have to wear a pastel smock that reeks of greasy fast food. J) Adults other than your parents have character flaws. K) The second day on the job isn’t the right time to ask for a raise. L) The new kid isn’t supposed to say much, at first. M) Other.

What? Come again?

You don’t have to be old to suffer from diminished hearing. But it helps.

I got to thinking about the Spokane area’s leading causes of poor hearing, and I came up with a few suspects.

No. 1, I would think, would have to be the U.S. Air Force. Those who spent years around the thunderous B-36 and the B-52 almost inevitably experienced some loss.

Industrial settings with loud machinery would have be on the list, too.

Rock music – either at concerts or listened to on earphones turned up to 11 – surely has claimed victims.

High-decibel motors – boats, hot rods or chainsaws – ought to be on the list.

What else?


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