The students in my advance 7th grade English class read Tuesday's with Morrie over the summer. Although it has taken awhile for me to set guidelines for their project, they have been sent forth to discover about their own lives by meeting with a significant adult in their lives. Their project is based on 10 lessons on life gleaned from Morrie's advice in the book. Their objective is to decipher meaning from quotes on specific topics, pose and answer self-reflective questions about those topics, and participate in a weekly "class" about each topic with a trusted, experienced adult in which the focus is a lesson from Morrie. The final products of the project will consist of a personal narrative about their experience that pays tribute to their chosen adult, a series of poems about each topic, and a presentation to teach the rest of the class about the most significant ideals learned in their journey.
Honestly, I have never seen 12 and 13 year old students be so enthusiastic to engage in such an arduous assignment. Through our brief discussion, these kids feel empowered by the opportunity to express themselves and connect with the values espoused in the book. I look forward to sharing some of the more insightful work. In the meantime, a word of encouragement from you might make a difference for those who are doubters.
—Rockdale Junior High, Rockdale, TX
I must share my wonderful end of the year Mitch Albom story. My friends and family are sick of listening to me, so it's your turn!
I teach an English class for juniors and seniors who are enrolled in a technology school where they are studying a program for most of the day. The majority of my students are in automotive, building, or computer based programs. They vary in academic ability and interest, but for the most part they do not enjoy school. They choose to come to our center to escape the traditional high school setting and try something different.
As a result I structure my English class very differently. Reading is low on their interest and often ability list, so I spend only one day a week reading and discussing short texts in class. I teach a 4-way thinking model that helps students summarize, interpret, analyze, and evaluate the text. Throughout the year students build their strength in this, yet we never read anything longer than a 45 minute class allows.
This year I decided to try teaching your novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, one day a week for fourth quarter. I have to tell you that it was the most successful reading experience I have ever had with my students. They were instantly captivated with the characters and plot. They begged and pleaded for extra reading days. I just graded 20 final exam essays in which the students applied the 4-way thinking to the novel, and they are excellent. The class was truly able to summarize the key points, interpret the meaning of the novel, analyze important lines, and evaluate the text. Students wrote between two and four pages without any prompting or bribing. A few demanded more time because they had so much to say.
I'm writing because I usually end the school year exhausted and worn down, but because of this experience I am so excited and proud. Thanks for your part of this success.
—Center for Technology, Essex, Essex, VT
We want Mitch Albom to be a guest speaker at our high school in Sayre, Pennsylvania!
—Sayre Area High School, Sayre, PA
After two months of my three month stay at a Men’s substance abuse facility in Lansing Mi I walked to The Lansing Community College and told them "I have no diploma, no GED, and would like to become a substance abuse counselor. Can you help me do that?
The pleasant young lady pointed across the student commons and asked; "do you see the double doors with the words assessment over them?" "Yes," I replied. "You just go in there and take about five hours in tests and we credit you for what you already know and place you in classes accordingly."
"Sounds good" I said. "Do I need to make an appointment?"
"No appointment needed," she replied.
"Can I do it now," I asked?
"Don't see why not" she shrugged in reply.
After a week of being in classrooms for the first time since 1975 (24 years earlier) I was ready to bolt! Everything had to be typed on a computer and my limited experiences with computers had not been good experiences. My first class of the first semesters (an insane 22 credits) was "Intro to Computers!"
After expressing this to my writing tenured professor she and I had a long conversation about the pro's and con's of legalizing drugs. Having admitted to her that until about four months ago I was a homeless heroin addict she was surprised that I am Pro - Legalization.
Finally she convinced me to give it my best shot and ask her for help if I needed to. I needed too many times. Part of her intro and itinerary and syllabus was to explain that if we were looking for an easy class or a 4 point that we were in the wrong room and to drop and re apply with another instructor. She had; "not given anybody a 4 point in over four years."
I learned a lot in that class filled with young people that I originally looked at as kids my son’s age. When I quit talking down to them they taught me a lot and many became friends.
When grading time came I had told nobody, but like a typical addict in early recovery I was determined to make the "Deans List." So when I received a letter informing me I had made "The Presidents List" I called to college to straighten this out! The woman on the phone told me as gently as possible that I was indeed on the Dean's List, but that the tip 1% of the Deans List makes "The Presidents List." So I informed her it would be OK!
I wanted to go out and celebrate! I wanted to share this with the world.
Instead I went to a Narcotics Anonymous Meeting and shared my joy with whith the people that had helped me get my four point grade.
Later that summer of 2004 I was asked by the school to interview for a promotional film the school was making and bumped into my Writing 210 teacher on the green afterward. We talked a bit and she shared how she was leaving a faculty meeting, her being the Steward of the L. C. C. local. She said how "all the instructors were raving about how wonderful students are these days, that they know so much already." She had told them "the best student" she "ever saw was a very hard working 47 year old man the past semester."
Then I laughed and she asked me if I thought "she was joking?"
"No," I replied. "I just got done with a taped interview and I told them you were the best teacher I ever had."
We both just smiled at each other and said our farewells, and after a little hug went our separate ways.
Ms. W. Larrier at Lansing Community College is the best life (and writing) teacher I ever had.
—Home, Brighton, MI
I feel like you're a dear friend since I keep a copy of "Five People" and "Tuesdays With Morrie" on my dresser. I've thought often of writing you and now that I've received some devastating medical news, the time is right.
I know you're interested in stories that involve teaching and I do believe mine has a place in history of a time that is almost forgotten. I had a forever life-changing experience in the 1960's which doesn't sound like that long ago. But my story sounds like a horror story from another century. Most people today can't even begin to comprehend it because things have come so far. I became pregnant as a teenager in a time when young girls couldn't attend high school or college if they were unmarried. Parents considered it the greatest shame and embarrassment that could be brought on a family. The usual way of handling this "problem" was to quickly move the girl and then after it was over pretend that nothing happened. There were charities called "unwed mothers' homes". My parents sent me to one that was owned by The Salvation Army. The home was full of young, pregnant women--mostly from nice families and backgrounds--all living in hiding until they gave birth. There were affluent families in line to get these babies through a lawyer or someone to help them. I went in at three months, gave birth, and had to say goodbye to my baby at three days. It's just very hard to imagine, thinking of all the options women have today.
The "second time" my son was born was at age 34, when he went through a specialist in finding birth parents. The records were totally sealed up until then and it had been virtually impossible before that time to really conduct a search. My life totally changed on September 1, 2000, when we met for the first time. I have never been a believer in digging up the past because most of these stories turn out to be very painful or just okay at best. When I was first contacted by the investigator, the call sounded like my whole secret past was tumbling down. Even my beloved brother and sister, who were just kids when I was pregnant, never knew what had happened to me. They were told I had had a nervous breakdown and had to go away. As little kids they never had any idea what that could mean. It just sounded horrible to someone that was actually more like a mother to them than a sister. It's hard to believe that all the unwed mothers had to come home and pretend it was a closed chapter. That was part of the deal with the home--that all records were sealed and your baby would be assured of a wonderful life, with parents who could well afford everything the "good life" might offer. One of the many reasons I have always been reluctant to share my story is that I felt like it gave false hope to a dream. I was certainly convinced that my son would have no respect for me, because no young adult at this time could understand what the social ramifications were in the 60's. I encouraged him to watch "A Summer Place", my favorite movie, which shows a family who pretends that the Grandmother is actually the Mother. This same story happened to Jack Nicholson.
I have spent the last 12 years devoted to my son and teaching him all the things I think are important to be the best man he can be. He certainly was a prize to begin with, but I have to believe that I have enriched his life in some way. I consider "real" parents to be the ones who raised him. Not some idiot teenager like myself. If both his real parents had not passed away, I would have never agreed to meet him, because I think it's a slap in the face to the ones who raised him. However, they had both passed and I had to open the door to be a second mother. I have found that nobody really understands what it's like for two people who are virtual strangers to meet. He didn't know me, and I didn't know him. It was a one in a million story. We clicked immediately. Our lives have both been drastically changed for the good since September of 2000.
I recently found out that I have a carcinoma on my kidney and I really don't want to have missed the chance to share our story. In a time when teenage single motherhood is glorified, I only wish young women could know how far we've come. Mitch, I know you receive hundreds of stories and I just have to hope that you might consider co-authoring mine in the name of history. Thank you so much for an opportunity to share.
P.S. I can be contacted at 205-414-0000, or through my e-mail.
—, Birmingham, AL