I'm not sure if my first entry is a classroom teacher anymore. I do know from a very low level of internet searching that he's had a successful career as a high school football coach. Jeff Putnam doesn't look anything like I remember, but if he's anything like the guy he was twenty-seven years ago, his players get more than just field strategy from him. When you remember specific lessons from your teachers, you know they stuck. Mr. Putnam taught psychology and social science, and I can clearly more than one of his lessons. In one, he was teaching us about how expectation colors our perception. He told us about an evening where he was eating mashed potatoes and gravy, standing in the front room of his house, in the dark, looking out the window. His wife, came up behind him. "Whatcha eating?" she asked. He told her that it was ice cream with chocolate syrup. She may have punched him, she was angry at least. The respect he had for his students came through in the conversational tone he took with us, and his anecdotes brought the concepts he was teaching to life. When I think of how open I am with my students, I think some of DNA there comes from Mr. Putnam.
When I took Humanities in high school, I was a sophomore. You were supposed to be a junior or senior, but another girl and I were good enough students that we got into the class a year early. Working in Ms. Piechowski's class felt more like a college course than any I took at Lapeer West High School. She taught us to organize information by having us keep a binder with timelines, notes, pictures, and readings. If you did a good job at this, not only was it part of your grade, but putting it together really prepped you for the tests. One of the cool things, though, in Ms. Piechowski's class was that during work-time in class, there was a comfortable, workshop-y atmosphere in her class. She would play music, there was friendly chatting all around, and we were able to work together. Again, this all figures into the genetic code of my classroom now, but in the tenth grade, the respect for students and their time felt amazing to us!
When I was going to school at Oakland University, I took a couple of classes with Richard Pipan. I believe the class was Philosophy of Education, but it's been a few years. Dr. Pipan didn't give much work besides a weekly reading schedule. There wasn't a ton of writing, and he didn't dump a lot of tests on us. We had discussions each week. When it came to grades, our one (brief) paper was supposed to be a justification for the grade we thought we'd earned. It was very clear that what we get out of things is based on our input. While I can't get away with being that open in everything I do, I think about how I grade more on meeting personal goals than on tests. I think about how when it comes to our Genius Hour projects, I want my students to reflect on what they've learned, rather than have me tell them how they did. It's your project, you decide how well you did.
Each of these teachers left their fingerprints on my soul, and they have all had an influence on my teaching style. As I work to give my students greater choice, voice, and control, I am the sum of my experiences, and I - and my students - definitely have them to thank.