Miss Smith

I had Miss Smith for 9th grade English.

I “hated” her.  I had always done well in English until I was put into her class.  I didn’t understand 1/2 of what she was saying at any given time.

She was very into the grammar and mechanics of English; whereas, up to this point, all my previous English teachers were more into reading comprehension / analyzing and writing how you “feel” about a particular thing.  Aced those classes.

She would talk about dangling participles and it took me FOREVER to discover she was referring to a sentence!  (And, I still didn’t “get it” until I went into college. . .)

I had been put into her class because I was doing so well in all my previous English courses.  Our English classes were “leveled” and I had always been in the mid-level courses.

After her class, I was again “demoted” to mid-level, and I was never so happy for such an outcome!

Then, came college. . .and every professor wanted you to write a paper. . .and ALL of them had something against the poor little “dangling participle”. 

I wound up leaving college and joining the military, then going back to college after I finished my military time.  One of the first things I asked for was a remedial English course.

My advisor was against it, as my transcripts “didn’t show need”, but I was fairly adament.

I actually learned quite a lot in that class; although, to be perfectly honest, I’m learning so much more teaching my boys.

Which again, reminds me of Miss Smith.

She used to say, “You don’t know a thing, until you can define it.”  

What I “heard”:  “You can’t truly teach a thing until you “know” it.”

And to prove her point, she asked us to define an “easy word”:  “chair”.  Easy, in that it was a noun.

Go ahead, come up with your own definition. . .

You didn’t say “four legs” in your definition did you?  Did you require your chair to have a back / arms?












Click to enlarge

This one poses a problem, doesn’t it?  So, does a tree stump. . .

The best our class could come up with was “a piece of furniture upon which you can sit”.  Miss Smith still wasn’t happy with that definition, as it was too “vague”.  (After all, I could sit upon almost any piece of furniture in my home. . .and what qualifies as “furniture”?)

I think about Miss Smith every time I feel that I’m failing my kids. . .

After all, I still can’t define a chair.

I used to believe that you could not be a great teacher unless you were able to “define” the things you taught. . .

Yet, maybe that wasn’t actually the lesson.  Certainly, I was wrong on many things in her class; possibly in this aspect as well.

So, would a “great teacher” define a chair to a student?  Or would she ask the student to define the chair?


Some things you learn late in life; others you are lucky to learn at all.


By the way, I think the review went okay yesterday.  I have to wait for the paperwork to arrive, but the reviewer said he wouldn’t be seeing me again any time soon. 

He told me he was most impressed with the schedules, the fact that I wrote comments on graded papers, and that I’m doing thematic units with Garrett.  (He said thematic units take an insane amount of work; and that combined with the other two truly shows that I’m very interested in providing my kids the best education I can.)

He also offered some constructive criticism, and some hints. . .which was honestly quite helpful.  It helped that I didn’t feel “attacked”.


2 comments on “Miss Smith

  1. Sharon says:

    So glad it went well. Good thing he didn’t ask you to define chair.

  2. Sunshine says:

    Glad it went well for you. I knew it would. I also knew he’d be impressed with you. I am amazed by you daily, so how could he possibly not be?

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