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You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

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Our English teacher retired this year and, as always when you lose a good teacher, you’re sad and a little anxious, and always reflective. Of course he touched many students during his career. Most of them would tell you he was a great teacher who taught them to write, to read and analyze good literature, to create and present. He helped them through their state mandated tests and their portfolios, senior projects, graduation. He did what all good teachers do – he helped his students grow not just academically, but socially as well. But he also taught me many things. After 42 years in this business, you have to wonder how much more I could learn. A lot, it turns out. He taught me how to incorporate projects that addressed the tactile learners. He showed me that you don’t have to be dead to be an important author. I thought I knew every literary term, every type of poem, every essay writing template. But working with him, I learned new things. But it’s the other stuff I’m most grateful for. He taught me to “loosen up” and not take everything so seriously. He taught me to “pick my battles” and let the rest go. He reminded me that often – very often – it’s better to listen than to speak. In our small school, the high school teachers have the same kids year after year, and he showed me how to let go of past performance, behavior, and attitude and treat each year as a new year, each student as a new student. He could actually do that from day to day. A self-described curmudgeon, he is actually very tolerant, patient, and funny. And his humor was one of the main things his students appreciated while they were learning. We will all miss him as he begins his new adventure in retirement. But the point of this is the best lesson in all – we’re never too old to learn.