An Open Letter to my 5th Grade Teacher Mr. Al Taylor
“I believe there’s a place for everyone in this world. Most people search all of their lives and never find it. I found it early. I believe I was placed on this earth to teach the children.” — Al Taylor, Ramblewood Elementary School
I wanted to take this opportunity to offer my greatest gratitude and respect to my beloved 5th grade teacher Mr. Taylor.
My classmates will agree that being in his classroom was a transformative experience, and to me, this timeframe marks the point where I realized that I could make a difference in my life using my smarts, skills, and interests. That’s something I take to heart to this day.
Here are a few of the memories I have of my time in Mr. Taylor’s class.
- We were required to remember and recite back to Mr. Taylor all the United States presidents, from George Washington to the present day (at the time, it was up to Ronald Reagan, for those of you who care to know).
2. We had Field Day and I raced as fast as I could in relay and individual events to win a bunch of blue and red ribbons. Win or lose, what a great time where girls and boys could be competitive, have fun, involve parents, and generally get outside and run around. I believe we also had the Kickball Championship, in which I was a strong competitor.
3. My mom was pregnant with my sister this year, and I was so embarrassed when she came to school one day. Mr. Taylor informed the whole class, and reminded me, that correct behavior for pregnant women was to demonstrate deep and grateful appreciation for them, because all of us came from a mother.
4. We had to remember and recite back to Mr. Taylor the Preamble to the Constitution.
5. We had to remember and recite back to Mr. Taylor the fifty states and their capitals.
6. We each picked a United States President and had to prepare a illustrated report on their life. This is how I learned that James Madison was part of the War of 1812 and was there when the White House burned down and was successively rebuilt.
7. Mr. Taylor required each of us to do a book report (with a cover illustration) of a notable African American in history. If memory serves, I was assigned W.E.B. DuBois (wikipedia) — Mr. Taylor mentioned that “even if the face looks like it’s sideways” in my drawing, it was still good and important to know and learn more about our historical record.
8. Because of the class presentations from African American history month, I also learned about George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, and Booker T. Washington. Excellent start to #blacklivesmatter.
9. We had to collect and write out a series of poetry stanzas, paragraphs, or speeches that we chose. I don’t remember much of this besides the ink from my erasable pen smearing all over the notebook; however, Mr. Taylor’s praise of the thoroughness of my project stuck with me — it was worth it, I learned, to spend time and be meticulous when doing something important to me.
10. Mr. Taylor had us play Bombardment and I was always team captain (at least prior to puberty setting in that year). We had an AWESOME time playing Bombardment amirite friends?
11. Because of good behavior and class participation, my best friend was allowed to choose an activity for the entire class to do at recess. She could choose the option of going outside to play -or- quiet reading indoors, and I remember leaning in to her and telling her “it’s your choice!” She/we got some disapproval from other classmates for her choice; however, from this I learned that even if people disagree about each other’s choices, we can always respect one another.
12. Finally, my friend and I were always pretending to be egrets during lunch or on the playground. Mr. Taylor was fairly calm about this obsession.
I think that year in Mr. Taylor’s class, which was for me the beginning of the end of childhood, marked a time when I was free to be everything I wanted to be, to learn as much as I could, and to demonstrate respect — and be grateful — to everyone and for everything.
He told me many years later, when I visited during my college years, that I “kept him on his toes” because I was always so interested in learning.
Many thanks to this amazing teacher, who continued to teach for 30+ years and was awarded Teacher of the Year at least 6 times.
Thank you Mr. Taylor for everything.
your student Monica