Teaching, learning take different forms

  • Published
  • By Pat Camara
  • Chief, Service Delivery Division
This past Valentine's Day -- a day of love, friendship and celebration of life -- my daughter, Melissa, invited me to her school to meet her favorite teacher, Mr. Weissman, and to see what high school was like in 2008. 

I knew the teacher was different because of the conversations Melissa and I had while she was taking his class last year. Our conversations were more open and deep. However, I didn't think the students would be that different, but they are. Texting on their cell phones during class, slouching in their chairs, stretching out instead of sitting up straight, it is a very relaxed atmosphere. 

Never had I thought that one teacher could open up a teenager the way he did, until I sat in on his class. Mr. Weissman has been teaching for 33 years and still loves every moment of it. I see it in his face, hear it in his voice and see the reaction in the students. He teaches "Expository Writing." 

The class allows the students to write about whatever comes to them. They write about personal experiences, feelings (old and new), and their life in their own words. He reads every paper and sometimes picks a few for his lesson of the day or week. He shares what they've written to teach his students: they are not alone, don't blame others, and always move forward. 

Moving forward with life was the lesson of the day when I visited his class. The way to move forward is to forgive those that have hurt you because if you don't, then you run the risk of staying stuck in the past.

That day I experienced something that I never thought I would have. I walked into this classroom having no idea what was going to happen, not knowing what my daughter found so amazing about this man. The moment I left though, it all made sense. He is a teacher that cares for his students, a man of passion and a teacher of life. He has stories to tell and stories to be told. 

I would have never thought of sharing my secrets to other students during class much less to a teacher. I never thought a teacher could change the way my daughter looks at life, that's supposed to be my job as her mother. But I'm not hurt or worried because learning comes in many different ways. We learn every day, but it's up to us to let it happen. 

A lesson I learned is similar to the Air Force's core values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. Although not in high school, we should study them, understand them, follow them and encourage others to do the same.