10 October 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - My Second Grade Teacher

When I was growing up I loved school. I loved learning, seeing my friends, getting new school clothes and school supplies. Teachers, especially in elementary school where you only had one all year, were important and could either enrich your school experience or make you miserable for nine months. I know there were teachers I didn't care for in high school, but luckily you didn't have to spend all day with them and I learned fairly young that if you just figure out what they are looking for and give them what they ask, the year would go by pretty smoothly. In general though, my feelings were usually lukewarm for my teachers.

My all-time favorite teacher, however, was my second grade teacher Mr. Anderson. I loved him! He was young and handsome and had a beard, so that probably made him cool in our eyes. He also played guitar and he would bring it in and teach us songs like Yellow Submarine and Puff the Magic Dragon. I can remember the giant notepads that teachers used where he had written the words to the songs so that we could memorize them. Looking back, I'm not sure how it all fit into our lesson plan, but at the time we loved it.

One specific memory I have about him as a teacher is just a little snippet, but it's funny that it stuck with me. We must have had an increase in writing exercises in second grade because I developed the callous that you get on your knuckle that comes from writing with a pencil. I remember it hurting and going to him and telling him I had this injury expecting to be sent to the nurse. He just smiled and said that it comes with writing. Then he showed me that he had the same callous on his finger, only his was huge. Then he sent me on my way without a band aid or anything! It makes me laugh now because I remember walking away confused because he hadn't given me a bandage for my wound and what was I going to do now!?

Another memory I have of him is just an image... but a pretty vivid one, I must say! My mom taught an aerobics class at the school and one day I went into the gym where her class was and realized that Mr. Anderson was in the class. He was wearing a full body leotard. I remember being shocked that he was wearing that outfit and a little embarrassed. That image was forever burned in my brain and I can't think of Mr. Anderson without thinking of him in that outfit!

If my memory serves me, Mr. Anderson only taught the one year, however, when I think about it, I don't really know for sure if he taught before our class. I feel like I remember him saying it was his first year teaching although that might have been his first year at our school or teaching second grade. I do know, however, that it was his last year teaching at my elementary school. He was going into the Peace Corps. It made the end of the year all that much more sad because he wasn't coming back. I remember sitting at my desk the last day of school and we were singing Puff the Magic Dragon. I cried through the whole thing. So did many of my classmates. I don't know how he made it through the song with a bunch of second graders crying! I remember I couldn't look at him because it hurt too bad. My other classmates that I've contacted through the years still remember him and his songs and they all loved him too!

When I was pregnant with my son and thinking of names, I was having a hard time coming up with a middle name. I wanted it to be meaningful, but I hadn't started doing genealogy yet so I didn't have a vast resource of family names to choose from. A friend of mine suggested thinking of someone who influenced you in your life in a positive way to come up with a middle name. It's funny because he's the first person I thought of. It seems sad in hindsight that I didn't have more positive male influences in my life, but I knew his first name was James and it fit perfectly with my son's first name. My son today still loves to hear the story about why I picked his names for him. It blows my mind how much impact one person can have on a kid's life... even if just for one year.


  1. What lovely memories - several of my grade school teachers made similar impacts on me, and it's surprising that I can remember more of what when on in the classroom then than I can about my college years!

  2. I agree Greta! I wonder if it's because we are so impressionable at that age. Elementary school teachers may have more of a profound impact on our lives because of that! Thank you for your comment! :)