Grandmother Power

Grandmother Power

"Grandmother Power"
My grandmother, wearing her apron and kneading the dough on the table in front of her, looks over her wire rimmed glasses as I try to say that I am sorry for committing a forgotten misdeed.   A chicken cooks in the oven while my father pushes the mower back and forth on my grandparents large lawn. It is a hot tropical afternoon in Punta Gorda, Florida the small town my grandparents and many of their adult children moved to from upstate New York in the 1950's. 

My summer vacation was drawing to a close and the new school year was right around the corner.  During my glorious holiday I camped out in the pine woods and palmettos near her house, built a boat out of scrap wood so my cousins and I could navigate Peace River (or at least a small part of it near Doran Heights, the subdivision my grandfather started) and encountered a rattlesnake when we were riding our bicycles along the cow paths across the main road. Yet few memories stand out as vividly as my grandmother in her kitchen, in her apron, with white, floured hands, making apple pie and listening intently to my confession.  As I finished she turned, bent down, and gave me a hug.  "Jimmy, I know you won't do it again.  Let's have a piece of pie."  I felt ashamed of letting her down, yet happy and content because of her faith in me.  Grandmother power personified.

As the son of a farm boy from Cortland, New York, who left school in the 6th grade to work with his father on the farm, and a farm girl from Latvia, who my father married at the end of WWII, I find it amazing that I was so lucky to have had such a special grandmother who would set the stage for my life.  The likelihood that her grandson, waiting in bare feet for a slice of hot apple pie in a hot kitchen in rural Florida, would live in 7 different countries around the world for over 4 decades, lead some excellent international schools and earn a doctorate in education was unimaginable.  

As I studied for my degrees and lived and worked with so many cultures, I have found that the interconnectedness of the human experience, across the years and cultures, has been the recurring theme. It is all about relationships and the modelling that I received from my grandmother, set the stage.

My grandmother had 9 children, many grandchildren and even more great grandchildren. She was a natural teacher and taught us in subtle, yet very powerful ways. I believe that because of her I have always wanted to become a teacher and work with children.  I am fascinated by the ability of skilful teachers to capture the hearts and minds of their students. I wanted to explore the skills and knowledge that make it possible for good teaching to reflect and change the children who receive it. I love teaching, and preparing for teaching, because of its power to increase my knowledge and to refine my view of myself and others. 

The best teachers I have been privileged to work with have been those who combine their expertise with knowledge and interests beyond their subject or teaching assignment. In their classes a question about algebra turns into a discussion of space flight and how math is not just numbers and formulae, but the language of the physical world. They are the high school teachers who see their own subject as a contribution to their students broader development as a person. As a teacher and then school head I hoped to bring students in touch with the joy of the world around them while helping them to discover their potential and find their niche in the world, just like my grandmother did for me.

The first and most influential teachers in a child's life are his or her parents and grandparents.  Together they set the stage for their children's and their grandchildren's future.  It is not an easy or smoothly paved road.  The ruts and boulders of life will often try to deviate the traveler from the straight and narrow.  However, when we help our offspring navigate the rocky roads by modelling a positive lifestyle and caring relationships the chances of a successful and safe journey for our children is so much greater.

Posted on 28 Jul 2018, 8:10 - Category: Learning

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