Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thankful Thursday - A Ferne Like No Other...

Well, I am going to give it a go and try to do thematic Thursday posts whenever going to do Thankful Thursday, as there are so many wonderful people in my life who I am thankful for...people who are in my life day to day and folks who touched my life in the past but still have an impact on my day to day...

I was trying to decide whom I should thank first, but then, the decision was made easy...I heard back from one of my favorite people and role models, someone whom I had lost touch with but was just now reconnecting with...after twenty years!!!

Now, I want to tell you about a wonderful woman and educator named Ferne.
This is her real first name, but I am not going to publish her last name, out of respect for her privacy.
The reason why her first name comes into play is that since it is an unusual name, it actually so happened that exactly 20 years after I did my student teaching with her, I happened to mention where I had done my student teaching and the nice person whom I had met happens to be good buddies with the person who taught across the hall from Ferne.
If she would have had a name like Mary, maybe it would not have happened that we would be able to make the connection just by the name.

Let me tell you how wonderful she was and I am sure she still is, and what great advice she gave me...

First, I did my student teaching during the 89-90 school year.
It was at the height of when things were getting revved up in education and the new rage at the time was "whole language".
Ferne's advice to me was as follows:
"The pendulum in education will swing, to be don't just do phonics or just do whole language...always do a balanced program."

Ferne was so spot on with this comment!

Luckily for me, I had the buzz words of whole language on my references from various professors and from the supervisor from my University, as it really was one of the tickets to my landing a job before I had even walked in my graduation ceremony.

But the reality in education and especially, in teaching reading / language arts is that there has to be a balance. So many times in education, the trend is to totally throw out the old in favor of something that appears swanky in its packaging more so than content.

Well, Ferne had been in education long enough to know this whole song and dance...and she dealt with it in an awesome way! She was very willing to let me try new things while I was doing my practicum, along with while I was actually student teaching in her room. She trusted me as a professional, but gave me guidance whenever necessary.

She was a consummate professional, but also very personable, generous, and kind.
She was always dressed in lovely clothes that emulated how she took her job as a teaching to be a profession, a vocation...she wore very nice clothes, but did not look too formal or too stiff.
Her room was very well organized and ran like a well oiled machine.
She had respect for her students, and in turn, they respected her.
Ferne could be firm when necessary, but also had a gentle kindness about her. She knew when a child was struggling or when a child was flourishing, and she adapted things to fit their individual learning needs. She treated all children as unique and special and expected the best from them...and the children knew this about her.

Ferne never got into the whole gossip scene that you sometimes find in teaching. She stayed above it all and did not get into sessions bashing things about the school or fellow teachers or students.
Let me tell you, it does happen in other environments. I saw it happen in other school settings more than a handful of times.
I can honestly say that I never heard Ferne say anything negative in a gossipy way about anything at all...

Ferne did know what was going on though, with fellow teachers, with students, with the school system and the whole contract situation, etc. but she always kept it positive around me.

She was in the know about her students, even when they did not know how aware she was. She had one little boy who lived with his father and brothers. This boy brought a box of chocolate candies in for his lunch, as he had packed it for himself.
Ferne had me work one on one with this child. It was an eye opening experience.
So many times, you hear of children growing up without a father, but this little guy was growing up without a mother. It was a struggle for his dad to raise sons without a mom.
What was neat to see how this child grow over the school year, due largely in part to the TLC from Ferne (and hopefully, from me, too...).
Like me, he was very blessed to have ended up in Ferne's class.

The other thing that was neat was that Ferne shared some of her life outside of school with me. I knew about her husband, her children, and some of the details about their lives. She shared with me how important her family was to her.
I actually thought of Ferne's daughter, whom I never met but felt like I knew, on my own wedding day...
On Ferne's daughter's wedding day, an earthquake struck in the city that she was living in and her guests were not even able to make the wedding. The young bride and groom went ahead and got married and were still very happy to be a newlyweds. Ferne's daughter was marrying the love of her life so everything else did not matter all that much.
I thought of her over and over as we had some crazy goings on behind the scenes at our wedding...
The order for our flowers had gotten lost, so the day before the wedding, we were scrambling for flowers...
The wedding cake almost ended up not being delivered, as the person we had spoken to had said that they would collect the remaining amount due upon delivery and somehow, someone new at the bakery thought that it had to be paid in full at the bakery before delivery...
The wedding was supposed to be outside, but there was a cold snap, so the night before, the entire venue had to be changed.
The hair stylists who we had hired to do my hair and make-up, as well as the entire bridal party's hair, was strung out from partying too hard the night before, so they did not show...and we did not have so much as a curling iron, hair gel, blush, or lip stick...
All of the favors for the children in the wedding were stolen...
They had wrong sized hurricane glass globes on the tables and they were missing all of the candles.
Someone helped themselves to floral wreath centerpieces the night before the wedding, so two tables were completely barren...
My dress arrived and they had altered it to be too tight in the bust...made me almost look like Betty Boop. 
The photographer took lousy photos and made off comments the entire wedding.
Oh, and the wedding planner / organizer we had paid had quit. She was part of the package through where we got married and there wasn't a replacement.
 But it did not matter to me...not much at the end of the day, the wedding turned out great! And, I was a very happy bride!
So who cares what went wrong behind the scenes...all thanks to Ferne sharing her daughter's story, it made me enjoy the day no matter how insane it was behind the scenes.

Well, flash forward 20 years and there I am at the pool with my two sons. Big Bro splashed a woman who looks to be in her 60s...I apologize and then, have Big Bro apologize, as some of the retirees at the pool do not like it when little ones splash them...
This woman mentions that it is okay, as she is a retired teacher.
Then, we begin to talk some more and lo and behold, she is good buddies with a teacher who used to teach across the hall from Ferne. I tell this person all of the things I could recall about her friend, and how professional and nice she seemed, even though I did not student teach in her room...
Then, flash forward a few days and lo and behold, the other lovely teacher who taught across from Ferne was passing I first got to see her after 20 years...I quickly put a very overdue note to Ferne together, along with photos of Big Bro and Little Bro, and then, she tells me that she will pass them on to Ferne when she returns home...

Well, then flash forward today, just as I had decided that I am going to start Thankful Thursday and what do a I get in the mail but a lovely card from Ferne.

It is truly a small world after all, as they say!!!

So, a huge thanks to Ferne for being such an outstanding role model and gift to the world, especially the world of education.

If all teachers in the world were like Ferne, there would not be a need to homeschool!!!

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