As I wrote in my post, Insecurities of a Homeschooling Mom, for many years I had a nagging worry that I might be depriving my children of a truly great teacher such as the one I had in fifth grade. That concern wasn’t enough for me to stop homeschooling. After all, there were many other considerations and the stories I was hearing from friends with children in school reminded me that those teachers were few and far between. Still, the niggling worry lodged in the back of my mind, moving into a more prominent position whenever I was disappointed in my own teaching.
When I had already been teaching for a few years, I received a hug from Heaven reminding me that teachers are found in all sorts of places. My husband returned from a conference and informed us that he had invited a fascinating man he had met there to join us for Shabbat dinner. Our table was rarely without guests and my young crew (aged 1-11) took the news of this new arrival in stride.
When we opened the door that Friday night, I saw my children’s faces droop a bit. The elegant looking, white-haired, elderly gentleman didn’t look like someone they would find particularly interesting. As the meal progressed and Daddy and Judge William Cassius Goodloe III (for that was the name of the retired WA State Supreme Court Chief Justice at our table) delved into politics, the kids sat politely but slightly bored. Compared to the guest who came wearing three bracelets, one ring and two necklaces so each girl could try something on, our new guest wasn’t scoring very well.
That all changed during the main course. Justice Goodloe looked around the table and intoned, “Fleas. Adam had ‘em.” A few minutes later he followed up that poem with another, slightly longer one. His delivery was such that my children hung on every word. Another poem, The Man in the Glass, followed, along with the question, “Do any of you know a poem?”
Four of the children raced from the table, returning with books that had some poems in them. Justice Goodloe frowned and told them that you don’t know a poem unless you have memorized it. He promised to send them copies of the poems he had shared and to come back to hear them recite. The days after the copies arrived found my older four children marching around the house memorizing and chanting the words to these poems. They begged my husband and me to invite Justice Goodloe back so that they could show him what they had learned. We did.
From that day to this one, poetry held new meaning for our family and became a regular part of our lives. All because of a teacher disguised as a retired State Supreme Court Chief Justice who was willing to share his passion for poetry.
A few week’s later, as the judge arrived for a meeting with my husband, he asked whether anyone would be interested in learning to paint with watercolors. By this time, my children were interested in anything that got them more time with their friend. Justice Goodloe, who we discovered was a prolific amateur artist, started coming over with paints and paper. Our children, whose mother is decidedly painting-challenged, discovered that there were techniques that allowed them to actually paint amazing landscapes.
As a “not found in school” teacher, Justice Goodloe became my children’s exceptional mentor. Over the years, each of the children has met other individuals who sparked interests, gave guidance and expanded their education. As for me, I was reminded that the world is full of wonderful teachers, both in and out of the classroom.