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GROB: Appreciate a teacher this week, and every week

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. So it’s time for me to appreciate a teacher.

Grandpa Grob. He’s not been around awhile. He passed on several years ago, and he retired from education many years before that.

He was never my teacher, although he was my grandfather, and there were things he taught me. Things that grandpas teach grandkids. Lessons I wish I could listen to again, because I didn’t appreciate them at the time.

It’s unfortunate that we don’t get to spend more time with our grandparents. They’re our first best friends.

GROB: Appreciate a teacher this week, and every week
James Grob

As a young man, my grandfather taught in a tiny little one-room schoolhouse in Wisconsin.

He was the only teacher for a group of kids of all ages, from first grade through high-school age. He taught all subjects.

 He used an appropriate balance of stern discipline and gentle kindness to efficiently coax, awaken and mold the young minds in his charge.

Actually, I have no idea if that last part is true or not. I wasn’t there. It’s entirely possible that my grandfather was an awful teacher who did more harm than good. But hey, it’s my grandpa we’re talking about — and I loved him — so I choose to believe he was a wonderful, fabulous teacher. I’d bet you’d do the same for your grandparent.

I do know this — he was committed to the fine art of education. He sometimes walked to school before dawn through biting Wisconsin blizzards to stoke the furnace and warm the schoolhouse before the kids arrived.

His dedication to teaching is apparent in his legacy. Inspired by his example, the overwhelming majority of two generations in his family after him — his children, his grandchildren — have chosen to become educators. A lot of them married educators, too.

There weren’t any fancy buildings or fancy equipment with Grandpa’s little schoolhouse, but you can bet that he would have liked there to be — and he would have used it if he would have had it.

As soon as my grandfather saved enough money, he went back and furthered his own education. He found another teaching job in a more modern school, and eventually became a principal at a school that was even more up-to-date than that one.

And he built a reputation as a principal who fought tooth-and-nail to give his teachers every modern advantage available. He knew how tough it was to work a one-room schoolhouse. He’d been there. He knew there was a better way.

Sometimes I wish I could travel through time and watch my grandfather as he taught in that little shack. I’d like to see him go to work and explain how to break down fractions. I’d watch him as he explained why a whale was not a fish, but a mammal. I’d like to hear his take on old Abe Lincoln and listen to his thoughts about “Huckleberry Finn.” It’s my favorite book — and I’ve been told it was Grandpa’s favorite, too.

I’d bow my head as he led his class through a recitation of “The Lord’s Prayer,” and watch with interest as he carefully taught them all how to properly handle the American flag.

You know, as long as I’m wishing, maybe I could get Grandpa to teach me the right way to throw a knuckleball. I’ve heard people say that he knew how to throw a good one.

I’ve also heard people who knew my grandfather all those decades ago express their appreciation for how hard he worked to make sure the kids who he taught got the best education possible.

I wonder sometimes if my own kids will have that same kind of appreciation when they’re my age. Will they recall the wonderful teachers they had in their home town? Will they understand the important arguments the good people of their home town had when they were kids, all about them and their school?

Will they be thankful for what some good people in their community tried to do for them? Will they, in turn, try to do the same for the generation that follows them?

When all is said and done, I’ll be hoping that the answer to all those questions is a simple, “Yes.”

Respect teachers. Occasionally, listen to them. Give them the resources they need. Pay them well. They’ll pay it back, and they’ll pay it forward, guaranteed.

My grandpa would’ve agreed. And I bet yours would’ve, too.

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