It was a dreary raining afternoon when I pulled up into the parking lot of the aging middle school. A free teacher workshop, said the ad in our local Appen newspaper. It promised a wonderful speaker and a free copy of his book. I’m all ears, I thought. The more I know about teaching reading and writing the better I will be able to help my students. I entered the gloomy building that Saturday afternoon not knowing what to expect. Like most older schools the outside betrayed the vibrant feel within generated by student and teacher creativity.
I noticed an older white haired gentleman off to one side and assumed he must be the nearly 40-year veteran teacher, Thomas Tufts. I introduced myself and he responded curtly with a greeting, clearly not in the mood for conversation. Boy, this guy is going to be really ‘old school’ I predicted. This might just be the longest afternoon of my life. Milling around the entrance carrying infant twins were two middle aged women. Teachers? It made me wonder, why would anyone bring a newborn to a 4 hour workshop? I soon discovered that Christina Appen, the organizer of the event was one of these women. She had received a last minute plea from a fellow foster parent requesting emergency babysitting coverage.
I marveled at the way Christina cared for these newborns so calmly and lovingly while she kept watch over the growing number of teacher arrivals. It was clear to me in that moment, I was meeting one of those rare individuals who have dedicated their lives to serving and improving the lives of people in their communities. Wow, I guess I was expecting her to be like some TV version of the hard nosed reporter-turned-publisher who would do anything for a story. I know, I know! 🙂 Wrong as usual, a reminder never to take my hunches too seriously. And also a reminder that people are brilliantly multifaceted when you take the time to notice.
Tom Tufts the 38 year veteran middle school teacher from South Florida was invited by the Appen Press to present a course for teachers on reading. Christina Appen, publisher, greeted teachers and welcomed Tufts for the first time to the Fulton Science MS School in Roswell. Much like a character in his book who said and I paraphrase, “Little did we know that we were meeting someone who would turn out to be one of the great heroes of all time!” Tufts opened up his trove a reading treasures and captivated the group for the whole afternoon.
Tufts shared his teaching philosophy and modeled his classroom management techniques; but more importantly he shared his values within his never-to-be-published novel, The Night Before Middle School. Each teacher left armed with their own sacred copy, containing rich imagery, life experiences and literary elements worthy of a truly great American novel. Tom’s initial resistance to conversation was a foreshadowing of his vocal chord distress. His assistant plied him with bottled water and insisted he take sips throughout his presentation.
Thanks Tom Tufts, for caring enough about children, teachers and the invaluable treasure we have in reading, as a catalyst for academic success. Thanks too, Christina Appen who cares about teachers and organized this special event,supplied materials and provided a tasty lunch! Tom Tufts is still working on his website expected to be launched this summer. It’s sure to contain some wonderful resources and inspiration. And what teacher can’t use a little inspiration once in a while?
Since the initial draft of this post 2 weeks ago, I have discovered through my network, a terrific tool for utilizing newspapers, blogs and any digital text to create targeted lesson plans. The site is called: Lesson Writer It is nothing I’d expected. In fact I had to watch the how-to video to fully appreciate its potential in the classroom.