How my sixth grade English teacher changed my life

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When my new teacher, Mrs Senger, stepped into my classroom for the first time that September, I saw my 12 year old scholastic life flash before my eyes. Stern looking, short dark hair, “sensible” shoes and what is now commonly referred to (quipped about?) as a “resting bitch face”. I was doomed. Back in those days English (this was Germany) was my nemesis alongside math. Of course, I wanted to be good at it, desperately so, but it just hadn’t clicked with my previous teachers, one of whom once humiliated me in front of the entire class, by holding up my miserable failure of a paper and making jokes about it.

I fully prepared myself for nine months of sheer misery, interspersed with occasional terror. But somehow the exact opposite happened (as you, my super smart reader have figured out instantly, on account of this being written in English and all ;).

Mrs Senger did have a no nonsense way about her, but that was what made her the fantastic teacher that she was. You see, for the first time ever, a teacher would not assign us homework for homework’s sake. It became obvious quickly that she had neither time nor patience for rote exercises and that we, as students, didn’t either. Our time was every bit as valuable as hers. It was that simple.

Her homework assignments were carefully curated to practice and solidify each lesson that had been taught that day, nothing more, nothing less. By scrutinizing each block of assignments in our textbook, then editing to remove any that did not serve the purpose of the day’s lesson, she reinforced in us not only what it was we were to focus on right there and then, but to take this editing skill and apply it to other classes and in fact, life, as well.

That year, my English grade went from a fairly solid D+ to a consistent A, never to stray from it again. Sadly, my string of crappy math teachers continued and that is why you are reading my blog today, rather than me being hidden away in an Ivy League math department…

How can Mrs Senger’s strategy be applied to other areas of life? How can you maximize results while simplifying your efforts?

Here are some ways this editing strategy can be put to good use daily:

  • Write down a list of tasks to accomplish
  • Assign order to those tasks by numbering them
  • Pay close attention to whether or not any can be eliminated for that day or combined with other tasks to streamline
  • Allow a specific block of time for each chore
  • Assess each day what worked out, what didn’t and why
  • Repeat daily

For this very low tech system, all it takes is a trusty little yellow note pad by your side each morning.  Drawing a line through each task as it is completed adds a sense of accomplishment. Anything on the list you weren’t able to finish?Use any of the tasks you weren’t able to finish as a starting point for the next day’s list.

Is there a particular item that frequently winds up in the “not done” column? Time to do some soul searching. Is it too tedious, daunting, complicated? What can be done about it? Can you enlist help, delegate? Sometimes it takes setting up a system to get through those chores or errands we dread the most.  Not loving laundry? Which part trips you up? Sorting, folding, stain removal? Want to meet a friend for lunch, but never seem to find time? Maybe you can designate a certain day in the week as “lunch with friends day” and let others know so they can plan ahead.

Over time this system of editing allows you to pinpoint bottle necks. It empowers you to take control of your time. And it will give you a handle on tasks in a way that makes times when things are a little or a lot more chaotic far more manageable.

Personally I have discovered that simple steps like doing as many things ahead as early as possible in the day, cooking for two days at a time, having a lunch system, setting up morning and evening routines for our son, designating specific days for cleaning, shopping, laundry, has made a huge difference in our daily flow.

This simple editing philosophy applies to all areas of life. I am currently employing it to rid our house of any items that do not serve any purpose = clutter.

Yes, you may be thinking, so you learned how to approach tasks and problems a certain way, but life changing? Really? Absolutely. It was that spark…

You see, the twelve year old girl who was struggling to learn English, went on to feel confident enough in her English language skills to visit the US at the age of seventeen. And she loved it so much that she returned to live here two short years after that. Learning a second language has changed the trajectory of my life completely, including, of course, writing this blog.

Is there a favorite teacher (scholastic or relative or friend) who has changed your life for the better? How? Are you a teacher wondering if you have ever made an impact on your students? I’d love to hear your story!

Keep it simple!





2 thoughts on “How my sixth grade English teacher changed my life”

    1. WittyGrittyGirl

      Thank you Marlies! I really appreciate that! And you win the honor of being the very first comment on my shiny new blog!

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