Monday, January 18, 2010

The Legend of Mr. Holmes

We all had a teacher or two that impacted our lives in a significant way. I remember Mrs. Gloman, opening up my biology world. We had her for two years (advanced biology as well, you know...) and every one of my close friends in her class majored in Biology in college. Talk about turning on the lightbulb....

Even though I wasn't the biggest literature-lover, my senior English teacher, Mrs. Raison, made it wonderful. She was just so Excited about the whole thing. If the idea was to have a job doing something you love, she personified it.

Though I homeschooled all-but-one of my older six children for a longer or shorter time, they all went to public high school. And they were all blessed to have Mr. Holmes as a teacher.

Mr. Holmes teaches only one subject: Honors U.S. History. He had a career in the Marines before becoming a teacher. He is a two-tour, front-line, down-in-the-trenches infantry Vietnam vet. He allows no monkey business in his class: he expects ladies and gentlemen, and gets what he expects. You know the saying of living up to the expectations set for you...

My children have said that Mr. Holmes is the only teacher that truly prepared them for college. They've told me about the can of Diet Pepsi on his desk. Mr. Holmes brought it to school the day he began teaching. He didn't drink it that day; it is still on his desk. He says he'll open it the day he retires.

He covers the period from the Civil War through Vietnam. He spends nine full weeks on Vietnam. When you come out of his class, you know the Why we were there. The horrors that were over there. The Way things were at Home. The final is a blank Blue Book: Tell me about Vietnam. The final is held at 6:30 am, because it is 90 minutes. Mr. Holmes brings the donuts and orange juice. And the prize?

The T-Shirt.

Everyone who survives finishes Mr. Holmes class gets a t-shirt. The front says Honors U.S. History 2010, the back has an inspiring Mr. Holmes/Marine/inspirational quote of some kind. Now, Violet took Mr. Holmes' class before the t-shirts; her prize was a Marine sticker. Hard to earn, proud to own, even today.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Mr. Holmes was still teaching--he could have retired since my last Mr. Holmes-student graduated in 2002. And now it is Blackeyed Susan's turn.

This weekend she is working on the *three* assignments due the first day of class. (this gets you ready for the Large Workload to come.) Oh, she knows what she is getting into. I know that Mr. Holmes will grow her character. If I can't be her teacher, I can be confident handing her over to him for ninety minutes a day.

I told Mr. Holmes at the beginning of the year that he needed to postpone retirement until Alvin Fernald takes his class in two years. Then all eight of my children would have the privilege of being in his class. Now our school corporation is trying to get Federal money in the form of the new Race to the Top program. If you are a target school (troubled), these are the requirements:
1. Fire the principal. 2. Fire all the staff. 3. You may re-hire up to 49% of the staff.

No options. No accounting for individual cases. Isn't this like the federal government? The rumor is that Mr. Holmes isn't going to deal with the whole thing, that he'll just retire. Though I can't blame him at all, I'm sad. Sad that a truly GREAT teacher can be treated in this manner.

So, Susan may be in his very last class.

Oh, well. Maybe she'll get a sip of that Diet Pepsi.

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