A dear friend and former colleague passed away yesterday. We were on the same “team” for a year, he as the History teacher and me as the English teacher. I am a huge proponent of team teaching– when done right it can make a world of difference to both the students and the teachers. I was lucky to be on Larry’s team for many reasons, not the least of which being that when my students came to me from his classroom they were pumped, excited about school, and generally on a high from being in Larry’s classroom. Here are a few pieces of wisdom I gained from my friend, and I pass them on in his memory:
1. Call the parents. Often.
I have never taught in a classroom where I had a direct phone line. This made email communication much easier for me. I also preferred email so I could have written documentation of my correspondence with parents. Larry didn’t see it that way. Sure, he would email, but he carved time out of his day often to sneak out of his room and call the parents of his students. Not just the “bad” ones. The good ones. The average ones. He connected with parents far more personally that way, and taught me to do the same.
2. Bring treats. Weird ones.
Usually when teachers bring “treats” to early morning team meetings, they bring something easy. Donuts. Bagels. Not Larry. He brought smoked oysters and crackers the first time he was slated to bring treats for our team. I think he was pretty pleased with himself, thinking that there would just be more for him since no one would partake with him, but he underestimated me. In fact, I loved the smoked oysters and requested them every time it was his turn to bring treats.
3. Get kids moving.
My classroom was next to Larry’s, and if you are a teacher you know that the walls between classrooms can be veeeery thin. For me, they were so thin that I often could hear Larry blasting his music, history films, or just his voice. I knew when his kids were moving desks, working on projects, getting up and about and moving. And it was always for the better. His energy was infectious.
4. Do what works for you.
Our school had a really nice district website and tool for teachers to create their own websites. I struggled with getting mine up and running, since I wasn’t used to the interface and was used to Blogger. I voiced that to Larry once and he said, “Why are you using that if you know how to use Blogger?” It was such a simple question. He used Blogger because it worked best for him. Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be.
5. Appreciate, appreciate.
Larry raved about his family constantly. He spoke up for what he believed in and never backed down from his opinion. I will always remember him as being supportive of his friends and colleagues. I trusted him, and I know he trusted me. I will miss his antics and sense of humor (one of my last memories of him is of him running up to me in the school parking lot to tell me I was waddling- I was nine months pregnant). Life is so very short and precious. Appreciate it, all of it. Especially the teachers among you.