Mondays have turned out to be longer days than I originally thought they would be. I have decided to return my Sunday to more of a day of rest so my students now have until Sunday evening at midnight to finish their work. That means that Monday, I can attend to the evaluation and do not have to do that on Sunday. On Mondays, I have to be on the Oakton campus by 10:00 or so for the ESL Conversation Hour, 9:00 AM if I have tutoring. Sometimes that has to be ‘jockeyed’ a bit and changed since I have to miss one Monday a month for a Shakespeare Committee meeting in the city.
I have decided to stay at Oakton to do my work of evaluation and yesterday, what with the time spent at conversation hours (I also do French Conversation hour), I ended up with barely time to even grab a bite to eat. At 3:30 PM I left Oakton to travel to Wilmette to tutor, with a 4:30 tutoring gig in mind. That turned out to be a bust since when I arrived, the boys Mom said, “Oh, I am so sorry, for some reason I thought you were coming on Tuesday.” It turns out that my tutee had been home ill and somehow our plans got confused. She went up to see if he might be okay enough for tutoring, but that was not the case. I ended up leaving and joining MK for a quick Mariano’s visit and then a burger before coming home at Fuddrucker’s, which is now open in a new location.
We always loved the burgers at Fuddrucker’s and are glad to see this new one in place. The burgers seemed slightly different but not appreciably so. The interesting part of this dinner was that we saw an old friend, Lew Goldstein, with two of the young men with whom he works. I met Lew many years ago at New Trier, he being in Special Education, and working with students with Down’s Syndrome, with Autism, and all sorts of serious issues. After the strike at New Trier, I initially went into Mary Deignan’s (she has been long deceased) class to teach French to her students in my spare time and then transferred to Lew’s EMH (Educable Mentally Handicapped) students. I would go in during a free period and teach some simple French and songs. I did this for quite a few years. It was a most rewarding moment in my day and in my career and it caused many a friendship and also caused many a thought of what these students really were capable of. To be honest, in the long run, what Lew and I never thought possible was that the students would be as capable as they were and that our work together would actually bring about more acceptance in the entire school of the students who used to be relegated to a small corner of the building.
While dining with Lew and former students Kenny and Tom (both were students of mine in the French class), we talked about what has been going on. Lew continues to work with his former charges, despite having retired in 2001, and mainly on a Special Olympics and activities way. We talked of what we had done, of students’ amazing successes, of how he helped them find living situations that were good for both the students and families and how he had managed to find success for pretty much all of his students in terms of jobs.
I remember going in to the classroom and working with Lew and his amazing assistant, Vivian Turcot. Vivian took them into the kitchen they had and taught them how to cook, to clean the dishes, to set a table, to load a dishwasher, all of those simple chores we take for granted. Periodically, I would show them something like how to make crêpes and I was even able to take my own students in there to do the same. We were doing inclusion before it became something fashionable or even required.
Because of our work, we ended up testifying before the state board of education in regards to the importance of language learning in everyone’s curriculum. We ended up even getting a grant to create a Pre-Language class called ‘HOLA’ or How to Optimize Language Acquisition. For several years, I taught this class in summer school along with a very gifted Special Education Professional by the name of Ludmilla Coven, to prepare students who normally did not even attempt to take language. They were very successful in the language venture.
Every so often I have run into Lew and to be honest, he amazes me. I have seen my share of dedicated teachers in my time, but he goes way above and beyond. The man eats, sleeps, and breathes the life of a dedicated teacher. There isn’t a moment that he does not think of how he can help to be a guiding force in improving the lot of his students. The fact of the matter is that he does, and he does it unlike anyone else I have ever seen. It is easy to see how this Highland Park resident never had the time to have a family of his own. His family is composed of students who continue to be a part of his life and who as adults address him as ‘Lew.’ Despite his professionalism, he also has a sarcastic sense of humor that he lovingly shares with his charges and which they fling back at him with great panache.
I still see my former students in the grocery store, working at this or that, usually baggers there. Tom, who used to be the most amazing cafeteria worker at New Trier, recently went to an automotive care concern and now rotates, removes, and repairs tires and does oil changes and other automotive maintenance chores.
What an evening! What a walk down memory lane, what an experience MK and I had on a mundane Monday evening, in such a serendipitous way! It was a delightful moment and one that happened just because my tutoring gig was canceled at the last minute. I believe it was meant to be.