Teaching Secrets — Touching Genius

Happily, during my 32 years as a teacher I taught in public schools, a Christian school, a homeschooling tutorial, Washington Bible College, Philadelphia Biblical University, and Lancaster Bible College.The subject matter for grades 7-12 spanned English 7- AP English Lit & Comp, Shakespeare, speech, Spanish, Major Christian Authors and Major Christian Issues (my only original courses), arts & crafts and yearbook. The college courses included Introduction to Counseling at the undergrad level and co-teaching School Counseling Methods with Dr. Rick Horne. I loved the diversity!

At one time the Christian school had only one high school English teacher, yours truly. While still in Middle School, our younger son Bryan asked his Dad, “Do I have to have Mom for English 11 and 12?”

Dave: “If someone else can teach you to write as well as your Mom can, yes. If not, you two will just have to work it out.”

Actually, Brent and I had three years in a student-teacher relationship, studying world, American and British literature together, writing and revising  many compositions, and memorizing speeches from four of Shakespeare’s plays.   Bryan survived his junior and senior English classes with me (aided occasionally by Cliff’s Notes), and he can still, from memory, quote  the required Shakespearean  passages.

Both of our sons chose careers in education. Dr. Brent, in his eighth year of college teaching, inspires students studying leadership and therapeutic recreation at Georgia Southern University. Soon to be Dr. Bryan (dissertation pending, with a December 2012 graduation in view) works as the high school principal at Trinity Christian School, a classical Christian school in Kaneohe, Hawaii. Brent and Bryan worked hard most of the time in my classes, and I proudly their greatest fan.

However, extraordinarily bright students kept me on my knees, praying that I could stretch them enough intellectually, particularly if they had me all four years! In the early years of the Christian school, I taught English 9-12 as well as yearbook Major Christian Authors/Issues, and Spanish.

One of those very gifted gals graduated from high school more than twenty years ago. Shortly before graduation, she brought me a gift, a present that combined four of her amazing abilities. First, I read her original poem written in calligraphy:


Harsh intruders in a peaceful kingdom —

Shattered bottles next to ocean flowers,

Knife-like edges sparkle in the sunlight,

As the tide comes closer every hour.

Then the Sea picks up a jagged fragment,                      

Tossing it against the rocks surrounding.

Grinding sand turns sharpness into satin.

Waves refine it with their  steady pounding.

Sifting through the sand, a child finds it.

Joyfully he clasps his new-found booty:

Misted glass resplendent with soft color,

Brokenness transformed — a thing of beauty!

I reread the poem and then went to find her and ask about the photo. “Yes,” she confirmed, she had taken it the previous summer while on vacation in New England with her family.

My follow-up question dealt with the ten pieces of “sharpness turned into satin.” Again, “Yes,” she had collected the pieces of sea glass on a nearby beach. The idea to combine poem, photo, sea glass and matting “just made sense.”

Teaching secret number two? One of the best paychecks for teachers comes when we get to touch genius in the most unexpected ways. A student simply creates for the  joy of it — and then presents the gift  to another. No grade, no accolades, just the joy!



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