Recently, I had a meeting close to where my eldest son Andrew teaches. He has been the Physical Education teacher at Hamilton Meadow Park School in Novato for three years. I am ashamed to admit that I had never been to the campus but had passed it numerous times while traveling on Highway 101, headed to the Marin area. Since my appointment ended early, I decided to drop by the school to see Andrew in action.
The campus is typical of most California schools, with a series of low-level buildings and numerous portable classrooms brought in to accommodate a growing student population. The walls are painted with reminders of cultural acceptance, with the motto “Believe, Achieve, Succeed…No Excuses!” The most prominent building is the gymnasium, which seems to be a fairly new facility where Andrew spends most of his days, teaching PE to 6th to 8th graders.
Nasser, a 6th grade boy who recently moved from Nigeria to Novato, greeted me at the door. He offered his hand and a big smile to welcome me to the class. As I entered the gym, I was immediately surrounded by a mass of girls and boys wanting to meet the teacher's Mom. The PE Class was a true representation of the school's diverse cultural backgrounds. As my son stood in the midst of these eager faces, blowing his whistle and giving direction, I was reminded how skilled he is as a teacher. Trying to keep a class of 35 engaged for an hour and 45 minutes is something of a feat, with kids constantly asking to get a drink of water or tattling on their teammate. With three of these classes a day twice a week, no wonder he is exhausted when he gets home!
Andrew's final period is a Current Affairs class, and he asked me share my experiences as a City Council member. The students were very attentive. They thought I looked more like Andrew's sister than his Mom, which didn't go over so well with the teacher. The class was very aware of the upcoming presidential election, and could name all of the candidates who were running, with one exception: John Kasich. We covered a range of topics including the draught, and how much time I spent on city issues. I stressed the importance of voting (they knew the voting age) and keeping up with what was going on in their town as well as around the world.
My visit gave me renewed appreciation for the teaching profession. Teachers have to be self-motivated with the ability to reach their students every day. They teach life lessons and believing in oneself, along with the standard curriculum. Their profession is one of the most important—they bear the responsibility of preparing future generations for life's challenges.
Andrew has the gift, and as his mom, I was glad to share two hours of his school day, along with the students he influences now and for the rest of their lives.