When we were in Texas, Lana was commenting that almost all the books she’s reading for school this year are sad ones. They just finished On My Honor (great book, by the way) and it was a heartbreaker.
But, she admitted, it was a good book. Honestly, it does seem like the best books are pretty sad. But then, conflict of some kind is an essential element of a plot, right?
Well, I have another one for her after she takes a break from “sad books.” I just finished Ms Bixby’s Last Day. I’m not sure where I heard about it and I don’t think I realized what it was about…just a book about a good teacher and some kids who loved her.
And it was a treasure. It’s more about three scruffy fifth grade boys …well two are scruffy and one is a Japanese kid who, no matter what he does, will never be as good, as smart, as competent as his older sister than it is about Ms. Bixby. But yes, it’s about a teacher…Maggie Bixby with that pink streak of hair and a quote every day to talk about and interesting journal prompts that kids make the kids groan but love to write about.
And she’s the teacher I wanted to be, the one I tried to be, the one that sometimes I was but never as good as she was. I wonder when we’ll ALL realize that the most important thing a teacher can do is really KNOW her kids, really pay attention to THEM and hear them and really see them. Everything else is secondary. If you want to be one of the “good ones”, you need to see the kids more clearly than you see the curriculum. It reminds me of the line in Our Town…LOOK at me, Mama.
I remember one winter day in the late seventies. I was teaching first grade in Holyoke and had just finished taking attendance when the school nurse stopped in with some papers.
What up with Bobby, she asked.
Huh, I said, looking closely at Bobby for the first time that day. He needed a haircut. and his long bangs almost covered his eyes. But if I had looked at him I would have seen the huge red egg on his forehead.
I called him over.
Bobby, honey, where did you get that big bump?
Oh, that, he said without blinking. Me and my sister were yelling and running and w0ke up my daddy who was sleeping on the couch and he hit me with a baseball bat.
I was sick. Needless to say, Bobby’s dad ended up in court but my point is, if it weren’t for our school nurse, how long would it have taken for me to see that bump. We need to really see the kids we teach, the kids we’re raising, the kids next door, the grandkids. We’ve got to look at them.
I guess I love teacher books and this one is a treasure. Ms Bixby does look. She does see. And then she takes care of her kids. It makes you laugh right out loud and makes you cry and makes you think. And, yes, it’s a kids’ book but it’s really for everyone.
I was thinking about other teacher books after I finished this one. My sister, Anne, recommended Because of Mr. Terupt a long time ago. Loved that one too. And The Wednesday Wars is a good one. And, obviously, the Magic School Bus books. What I wouldn’t have given to be Ms. Frizzle!
And speaking of treasures, I went to see A Man Called Ove today and it was simply wonderful. (Now there’s another book that made me laugh and made me cry.)
Jerry continues to improve. He bumped into a friend at the Y yesterday who thought he was ‘totally cured.” Not quite but it is incredible how well he’s doing.
So, even though I may be holding my breath until the election is over, all is well. How could it not be? Take a look at this sky!