Random Thoughts

What you think about when you're thinking about teaching

... something to think about

by Ed Boyd

I think it really began when I was a signalman in the Navy about 1950. We received
and sent messages from hoists, semaphore and signal light. I became very good at
receiving light no matter how fast it was sent. I was a “steady dash” man. At
twenty, this was my first experience in feeling competent and I really liked that
feeling. I became QM3 and got the job of teaching newcomers about the different
hoists. I really liked that as this was more competence for me to feel. I began to
think I would leave the Navy, go to college and become a teacher.

In the spring of 1957 I was graduated from Boston University with a BS in Ed. That
fall I got a job teaching at the Parlin Junior High School in Everett, MA. I was
there for about two years when I got a chance to teach at the Manville School in the
Judge Baker Guidance Center for emotionally disturbed children. I was there for six
years, 1959-1965. I became the Director of the Dearborn School in Cambridge also for
emotionally disturbed children, 1965-1967. Frank Garfunkel offered me a doctorate at
BU. I left the Dearborn School and became a fellow at BU, 1968. I was a teaching
fellow for three years and then became faculty for five years. I was a good teacher
but I did not have a crate of articles I might submit for tenure so, reluctantly, I
left BU. In the summer of 1976 I became the Executive Director of Gifford School for
emotionally disturbed and learning disordered children. After twelve years at the
Gifford School I got a job as a psychologist at Harbor Schools/North Essex Mental
Health Centers. I was the Clinical Director of North Essex until my retirement in
1995.

Retirement left me with too much time for me to absorb easily. I went to the
Cambridge Adult Center to study writing and drawing. In 2004 I became an editor for
the Melrose Mirror. Then in 2007 I started a course in writing called “Bits and
Pieces” This was given freely to seniors at the Melrose Adult Center. Today, October
12, 2011, I have six students waiting for me at 11AM.

It is fairly easy to chronicle the teaching places I have been. It will be a lot
more difficult to talk about me as a teacher, but let me try. When I think back
through all these years, is it possible for me to extract ideas that characterized
me?

It was important to me not to put anyone down. I had been hurt enough in my youth
not to trample on those beneath me. It is tempting as a teacher to see people as
being lesser than your self. I worked very hard to avoid this. Besides, I wanted to
be liked.

I suppose wanting to be liked sounds trivial. Yet when I think of the gruff teachers
I have encountered, it does not seem they cared if they were liked or not. This is
much like the teacher that Sarah, my granddaughter, had in high school who had a
passion for fruit flies and not much else.

Another important aspect of being a teacher is to show through posture, gesture
voice that you are alive. I remember Mr. McClain in his English class how he would
speak in a burr for Macbeth. I worked hard, too, at conveying my presence.

None of this would matter, though, without showing my competence. To impress
whoever, you have to show in no uncertain terms that you are in command, you are
competent. From my early days as a junior high school teacher, the Manville School,
The Dearborn, wherever, I wanted to show that I knew what I was doing. My father
said to me just before he died, “Ed, you have done all right.” My father said I was
competent, which meant so much for me to hear.

Being liked, being present and being competent are fair characterizations of me as a
teacher.


November 4, 2011


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