Thursday, September 5, 2013

Orry, West Point Cadet

I am celebrating my 20th year of teaching by profiling former students who are doing great things in their field. As I've watched them grow into adults, I have been impressed with an aspect of their lives and want to share them with you. I fully recognize that I was merely a small part in their growth and development, but I can't help to be proud. By highlighting these former students I hope to encourage other teachers that what we do is a noble and worthy cause. We have the ability to boost others to greatness we have never considered. 

It's a rare thing to say you once taught a West Point Cadet, but I'm honestly not very surprised that Orry is studying at one of the top universities in the land. I have known Orry and his family for over a decade, since his older sister Rachel was in my wife's 5th grade class.  Excellence in studies and behavior have been honed in these two from an early age.

Orry is a Plebe, just starting his freshman year at West Point, having completed basic training over the summer.  Having never studied at a military academy, I had no idea what the coursework would be like. Tactical training? History of war? When to use a gun and when to use a tank? Orry tells me that he is currently studying courses that would be found at a civilian university.  However, on top of his studies he has numerous military duties to complete.

It's no secret that being accepted to West Point is extremely difficult, and I think I would rest on my laurels at that point if I succeeded.  However, Orry has other goals.  He wants to travel and become an army officer (I think he's well on the way to that), but he also plans to learn New Testament Greek one day.  Wouldn't it be great if he published The Madden Version of the Bible?

As a teacher, I feel that it's my job to partner with parents to help raise their kids. Orry's family was one that I truly felt I was in sync with.  As I attempted to instill organization and hard work into my students, I always felt like Orry was one step ahead of the class -- a tribute to his parents.  As I asked Orry to reflect on his sixth grade experience, he mentioned that as an elementary student he was scared to death to make a mistake.  Somehow I was able to help him realize that it's OK to make a mistake, which helped him come out of his shell.

Ironically, he also remembered Sentence Boot Camp.  I remember this very well.  As an English teacher, I was frustrated that the students were not learning (nor taking seriously) all the intricacies of different types of sentences.  (Looking back, I realize that this is extremely boring and I don't blame them for not working terribly hard.)  I got out of my normal character of the laid back and humorous teacher and strapped on my best drill sergeant persona.  I worked them hard, doing all sorts of sentence exercises, striving to make them excellent sentence writers.  It wasn't fun for them, but they came out better writers on the other end of that week.

I'm proud to have been a small part of Orry's growth as a student and individual. I'm even more proud to say that I played an active role in the history of a West Point Cadet.

Do well in school, Orry!

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