Warning: this is not a math teaching post.

Well, mostly.

I just started following A Brand New Line (http://abrandnewline.wordpress.com) in my new Old Reader, so the past 20 posts came up as unread, and I tabbed through them to get that annyoying (20) out of my menu bar.    I thus, just came across Sophie’s Mother’s Day post (http://abrandnewline.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/mom), almost 2 months after the holiday.    It’s a wonderful post, and a wonderful Mother’s Day – or any day – gift.   I lost my mother 3 years ago today, so I need to share something about her.  I was going to comment on the blog itself, but I thought (a) I didn’t want to dump my memorial on someone else’s blog and (b) Mom deserved a post – even though she probably didn’t  know what a blog was…

My mother was a teacher – she began her career teaching first grade in the early 1950’s, substitute taught while raising a family, later became a garmento, then a customer service agent, and finally in ‘retirement’, returned to teaching.  She taught ESL to adult students who adored and worshipped her like nothing I have ever seen.  When they called her Teacher, it was with complete reverence.  Although this was a new subject to her, she worked hard to learn the curriculum; she sought out her own own resources and professional development, and cared deeply about her students.  While her peers were retiring, moving to Florida, and slowing down, she created a whole new career for herself, one in which she gave back in a way she never had before.

When I decided to change careers sort of mid-life (hate that phrase), I had to pass the NYS ATS-W (Assessment of Teaching Skills – Written).   I took this exam before I entered any teaching program, and thus used review books to study.    Having little context for most of the matter on the second exam, I prepared by reading passages I didn’t understand out loud to my mother (while we sat at the beach near her apartment in Long Beach, NY) while she would comb through hImageer experience to give me classroom examples.    It became a favorite shared memory for both of us.

I began my teaching career in a [super] high-need urban high school; the struggles, which occurred on many levels, came frequently and tested my resolve to pursue this career almost daily.  Being a mom, she never tired of my phone calls, never stopped trying to help me find solutions – even when the only answer was time and experience – and never stopped telling me how proud she was of me.  Once I was able to see beyond my double period of remedial algebra (which was every bit as challenging as it sounds), we marveled at how much our experiences were similar despite the difference in our study bodies.  She taught motivated immigrants who came to class after or in between their jobs; my students were lamentably labelled “free lunch” and “lower third”.  But a classroom is a classroom is a classroom.

Six months after my mother died, the school she taught in actually dedicated a classroom to her.  Many of her former students and colleagues came to the dedication, brought home-made treats and read letters to her.  They were eager to meet the grandchildren my mother used as examples in her lessons almost daily (my teenagers just LOVED that).  It was a beautiful occasion, and the poem on the dedication plaque was written by one of her students.

There are still many days (and I think, there will always be) when I mentally begin to dial her numImageber as I am coming home from school, knowing she is the one person who will understand and fully sympathize with whatever school experience I am taking home with me – good or bad.  I’m thankful that I had her ear for as long as I did, but I will never stop missing her.   Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.


  1. Donna Haller

    My mother has been gone for 14 years and never got to see me become a special education teacher in my 50’s. She would have loved it, as I got my passion for working with special children from watching her with my brother and his peers–all with very special needs. Your post reminded me so much of my relationship with my mother and how much I miss her. Thank you!

  2. Fawn Nguyen

    This is just lovely, Wendy. I wouldn’t be able to write all that I’ve written without my ESL teachers. “I mentally begin to dial her number…” brought tears.

    Thank you for sharing.

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