Raleigh McLemore

January 6, 2007

Post #2133 – 20070106

I’m a science teacher. My mom believed that the only proof of god was that I became a teacher after making all of my teachers miserable for 13 years. “He’s getting even.” she told me.

I missed your interview on NPR which has angered some teachers. There’s some real problems with our trade, we are being told more and more how to teach, when to teach, and what to teach. This leads to teachers who can’t, don’t, teach their heart. We aren’t good robots. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if there were such a thing as “one good method” to teach. The Bush administration thinks there is a simple answer, but I don’t think so.

You can’t deny another person’s real experience. School sucked for you, I guess because of your teachers. That’s how I felt about school too. Working with teachers though I know that many work very hard to do right.

Just wanted you to know that I named my two geiger counters after your characters, “Wuggie Norple” and “Exploding Poptart” and the names always provoke students into reading your stuff. I tell them that your books are very bad and should not be read by good students (“Some students have had their brains leap out of their ears and run off.”), so naturally they end up bringing in “Lizard Music” or some other thing to show me that I have been officially ignored.

Your books are great. Sorry if you think teachers suck as a group. My students know that I am trying to be the teacher I never had, but the operative is word is “trying”. I measure success with “furious energy” when my students walk out. If they are animated and energetic about what they have done in my class I think I did a pretty good job.

In any case, while I was trying to buy the Wuggie Norple Story I found this site and it is really cool that I can send you this letter. I’m sending a copy to my middle daughter, the English teacher at Glendale Community College, and my oldest daughter, the principal at my school (you can bet that gets awkward when my kid has to chew me out for setting fire to the science classroom).

With firm handshake

Raleigh McLemore

Daniel replies:

I do not think teachers suck as a group. To do so would be ridiculous, and contrary to the facts. However, ""You can't deny another person's real experience."" My own experience was that I had two good teachers in all of high school, and possibly four in elementary and secondary school. It is also my experience that over 37 years of writing books for children, I have received a great many communications from teachers, and school classes. Some of these have been wonderful, and demonstrate exciting things going on--they make me proud that books I've written can be utilized in the work of education. At the same time, many letters from teachers and classes suggest something quite different. I have no idea of the ratio of good to bad, but I have to conclude that some teachers are dedicated, energetic and creative, take real joy in helping students develop their abilities, and explore the world of knowledge and understanding--and in the same profession are ignorant, unmannerly, lazy and repressive individuals, whose students need to struggle in order to keep their minds alive. Pretending that all teachers are competent and motivated people would seem to me to be one way to keep the bad ones doing what they do. Any time I write something which takes a critical view of a teacher or my own teachers, I get letters from teachers undertaking to speak for the whole profession, complaining, accusing me of being a ""complainer,"" (which role I am happy to play), and as in your case, suggesting that draconian regulations are keeping teachers, (who are all good), from doing their best. I think this closing-ranks kind of letter is disingenuous. I much prefer the letters which say, ""Half my colleagues are brain-dead, drooling idiots, and I, and the teachers who actually want to teach, have to work around them. Thanks for writing books which help in a small way.""