When I asked if I could have an interview, he took me to lunch for our chat. He appreciated my class and found it to be an intriguing experience. The class was World History and he had never forgotten my approach to teaching the formation of nations.
In short, nations formed with the growth of the business middle class, called the bourgeoisie in France. The Christian Crusade to retake Jerusalem had failed, but the European nations were jump- started by the products and learning of the Arabs. This filtered back to Europe and helped the people to form what we now know as real nations.
This is how he remembered my approach: “You had an excellent habit of using abstract concepts to get ideas across. I have never forgotten your discussion of serfs, lords, and the feudal system of Europe. You painted the
picture so graphically that I have remembered what you taught. I particularly remember the formation of nations.
“Supposed you arrived at the port of Marseilles, France, with a shipload of pancakes. You sell the pancakes to businessmen who wanted to make a profit
by selling the pancakes in Paris. It is unsafe to travel the country unless you bribe
the sheriffs and other officials as you made your way across France with a wheelbarrow of pancakes. Now, every time you came to a hamlet or a small town you had to give a plate of pancakes to the local magistrates. By the time you got to Paris you might not have enough left to make a profit. Over time these
businessmen organized and gave their support to one king. The king got his fair share of pancakes and it left the merchant many more pancakes to sell in Paris, rather than having to bribe so many local officials to guarantee safe passage.”
The story gets the job done and it is in the language that keeps the attention of the teenage kids who really do want to learn and know more than they did. It is important to have a lot of delivery methods for the information any teacher desires to teach. Sometimes it is important to teach it in the language of the kids.
“You were big man on campus because you were an excellent ping pong player.” (I had beaten a few state champs in several of the tournaments in which I had played. Another teacher, Mr. Nelson, was also great. I thought I beat him all the time, but he came back a couple of years later and proved to me that he could play better table tennis than I could. We had a national Lyceum assembly
where the American and British ping pong champs demonstrated their skills.
“Swede” Nelson and I wanted to challenge them to a match, but they would not allow it. Both of us thought we would have given them a battle with more gusto than they would have expected. They let us warm them up then required us to separate and play as co-partners of the champions.)
“You also put us in small groups to discuss certain items. I found this very valuable to me in the world of work, because I learned how to listen and how to negotiate and sell my own ideas.”
“Most of the teachers I had in school were cut and dried. We knew what was going to happen and what to expect. That was not so in your class. My favorite classes were in biology, but I remember your history course, mainly
because I enjoyed music and you had music for nearly every year of American history. The Civil War music was especially gripping. You taught us the real social issues of the time and it was stimulating.
“I was depressed most of the time while attending high school. Surely if anyone really knew me they would reject any relationship. It was a most painful
She was one of the very few students who was not fond of Mr. Keddington. The triggering event was being sent to the office to meet with him because she was wearing bobby sox. Mr. Keddington had strong opinions about
how students and teachers dressed at school. Pauline had a beautiful voice and shared it with the school often in a variety of productions.
She became a very effective teacher, and her memories include: “Your class was discussion-oriented. I thought you knew so much I
enjoyed watching you sit on your desk with your legs crossed under you. I found college much like your class. You seemed to be intuitive about students and pushed them effectively to meet their needs.”
Bob and Jean
“You made class very interesting. You were crazy, and that is a positive statement. Unpredictably zany would be a better way to put it. You stood on your desk one time when you were fighting some battle in some war. I still have forty pages of notes I took in your class, I never wanted to throw them away.
“I loved high school. I was a nerd, but that didn’t matter. I had no dates until my senior year.”
Bob’s father was the same age as my father, both born in 1890. Two of his father’s wives died, and with three women he had, I believe, a dozen children. The father had been a prize fighter and was a very educated man. I spent several evenings at his home visiting with him and his wife. Bob’s wife, Jean, graduated nearly six years after he did. Her father and
mother were good friends of mine. They lived in the neighborhood where I lived for five years, and he was always a morale booster whenever I needed one.
Bob was one fortunate guy. He was good looking, but Jean was a doll! He must have been a very good talker to convince his wife they should be companions.
“My experiences were different than Bob’s. I was scared of you. I was always in anticipation that you were going to call on me and I didn’t want you to.
“You were physically active. You never just stood behind your desk like most teachers, but seemed to always walk around the classroom asking us questions. You were so enthusiastic and had no problem with discipline, although we could get away with stuff we couldn’t do in other classes.
“You always talked to us like adults. I never felt like you were talking down to us.”