Thursday, October 23, 2014

Friendship - the Perfect Blendship

I am so old that I went to college before computers were used by anybody but computer science majors.  Seriously.  I took a manual Olympia typewriter with me, and celebrated when I became an RA in the dorm because it meant that I had access to the selectric typewriter with the built in white correction tape.  

Colleges have changed, a lot, since then.  Most significantly in the technology department.  Fortunately for me, technology has given me the gift of connectedness to college teaching friends on a daily basis -- we laugh, we reminisce, we motivate, and share ideas.  Even though we're in different states, we search out the support of each other because of the commonalities of our careers.

Share a favorite story about connected teaching and learning.

Yesterday I knew this prompt from Te@chthought was coming.   Honestly, I often feel like there are a million stories in the naked city, in my classroom, and many of them are hysterically amusing.  For the life of me, nothing came to mind.   I posted on facebook, hoping that a former student would say "remember that time....".  The response that resonated with me was this one:

There were these two girls who met at college. Little did they know just how their lives would become threads of a braid that stretched from Joy to Jersey.....

So before you read this, open  This Link in another window to provide background music.

Cindy and I were both Elementary Education majors at West Chester State College.  (Yes, we're so old that the college has changed names and is now WCU).  We've been friends for more than 35 years, and are now even closer than we were in college, thanks to the almighty power of social media.  In fact, the reason that this blog exists, at all, is Cindy's fault.  motivation and suggestion.

As an education major, it's difficult to share a room with people who don't "get it."  My poor roommate was an accounting major.   I distinctly remember sitting with a bag full of yarn that I bought at Woolworth's, sniffing the fumes of rubber cement as I simultaneously painted the glue on a paper mache monkey wearing a bellhop costume, winding the brown yarn around the monkey appendages as my roommate worked to memorize and calculate.  It was finals week.  Ruth was overwhelmed with statistics, books, and spreadsheets.

My crisis was a lack of red felt to make the hat for the monkey.

Aside from some very lame Mary Tasha jokes about felt, Ruth offered little in terms of support.  Clearly, it was difficult to fathom that we were both winding up with Bachelor of Science degrees, given the obvious discrepancy in final projects.

Cindy to the rescue!  We shared classes, we shared lesson plans, we shared motivation.  We were fine with making puppets out of styrofoam and melted crayons.  We relished the assignments where we could plan field trips to places that the professor (who LITERALLY graded with smiley faces) had never visited.  (Did you know that Phillips Mushroom Place is both innovative and educationally significant?  He thought so -- double smiley-face.)  We got married, and met up a few times when our children were small for a playdate.

Amy, a high school friend and special education teacher,  and her husband bought a house in the same New Jersey town as Cindy.  I introduced the two of them, and our circle widened.  When Amy was diagnosed with appendix cancer four years ago, Cindy and I became closer than ever, and realized that there is still common ground in education -- even if she's still dwelling in elementary land and I'm with the big kids at the high school.

We sat together last spring at Amy's funeral -- with our red haired daughters flanking us -- in the largest funeral home full of teachers one could imagine.  Sometimes it takes losing someone -- one of the REALLY GOOD ones -- to make you realize how precious the bond is between teachers.  The family was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, and those in attendance shared stories of education.  Educators who had never been connected before, were suddenly connected in the loss of someone very dear.

This year has been a time of tremendous reflection for me as I've experienced the loss of two close friends, both teachers,  within two weeks of each other.  I also accepted the dare encouragement of Cindy to blog as a means of reflection.

Cindy and I are entwined -- and that braid stretches from New Jersey to Mount Joy.  We're braided together as educators who share common passions and purpose.

And we can make a mean monkey out of paper mache, without fear of judgment.  Now that's a true friend.

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