Summer Optimism: Basking on the Manic Side (for a change)

By Claudia Felske – I’ve written several times about the fact that teaching is fertile ground for manic depression: extreme highs and lows occur on a daily basis in this profession.

These past few years in Wisconsin education, though, the emphasis has been on the depressive side.

sunSo, as a temporary antidote to this condition and in the spirit of full disclosure that the manic side is indeed currently alive and well (chalk it up to summer optimism or perhaps sunstroke) I shall now blog about two recent occurrences that have offered a jolt of optimism in the life of this educator.

Both relate to my two most recent blogposts:

Last month, in Unintended Consequences: The Gutting of Education in Wisconsin, I blogged about the unfathomable proposal by the Joint Finance Committee to allow, among other things, the licensure of teachers who haven’t even earned a high school diploma.

The manic part? I’m here to report a happy(ish) ending. many thousands of phone calls to local legislatures (thank you) and 37,000 signatures (thank you) delivered to the State Capital, decrying the ludicracy of this measure, seem to have had an effect.

Though the new wording of this measure has not been released, promises have been made to remove language allowing non high school graduates to become teachers, and relegating non-degreed, non-certifiied positions to part time, difficult-to-fill positions. While the measure should be removed in its entirety, the tide has turned, and it looks like the integrity teacher licensure in Wisconsin will, at least for now, prevail.

Secondly, in May, Teacher Appreciation Month, I blogged about ten of my most influential teachers: 10 Teachers Par Excellence: A Belated Appreciation. While writing that post, it was fun reminiscing about all the great classroom moments I was subject to, and it was difficult choosing just ten.

What I didn’t expect (the manic part begins…) was that of the teachers I wrote about, 6 connected with me after reading the post (My 6th grade teacher, 8th grade science teacher, 11th & 12th grade English teacher and 3 of my college professors) sending email replies, grateful for the shout out, and anxious to “catch up,” reminding me of their generous souls, still interested in the education of their student.

But even more manic, imagine my surprise (and manic reaction) when a few weeks ago in late May into my classroom on a seemingly ordinary day walked Mr. Bergener, my 6th grade teacher. “I read your blogpost,” he explained, with an ear-to-ear grin, “I was typing you an email, but then thought, no, I really need to go see her.” 

rick b1So there he was, in my classroom, my beloved 6th grade teacher who I hadn’t seen in 36 years, when he used to be a daily part of my 10-year old life. I had the fortune of being able to thank him in person for the lasting impact he had on me. We reminisced about classroom moments and referenced the challenges of education today.

And upon my invitation, last week, Mr. Bergner and his lovely wife made a guest appearance at my 4th of July family get together, where he completed the reunion with the rest of my family, my parents and three of my siblings, each of whom he remembered in detail. He delighted in learning what we’re up to, caring about us as 6th graders and as adults.

And that, dear readers, not test scores, is the mark of a great teacher.

Thank you Rick Bergner, and thank you Wisconsinites for the wherewithal to make those calls and sign those petitions. Thank you for caring for Wisconsin students.

Therein lies my currently manic state wherein Kindness and the Public Good seem to be in the lead.

Let’s hope it’s a trend in Wisconsin and not just a fleeting moment of summer bliss.

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