I never mention anyone by name on this blog, or use pictures of anyone I know, but I am going to make an exception for my friend Dinger, in honor of his 60th birthday which we all helped celebrate this weekend.
Dinger is physically 60 but mentally he is really just a big kid at heart, like we all are. He is warm and outgoing and loves family, friends and life itself. Everyone who knows the Dinger falls in love with him. When my mom died, and my dad was falling apart, Dinger (who only met him once before) knew how to bring a smile to his face.
Our group of friends came together in the math department of a big inner city high school. We had a miserable AP and some difficult kids and we bonded together to survive. But, we did more than survive. We grew into good teachers who gave and gave to our students. Dinger led the pack when it came to student-faculty basketball games and he portrayed a mean Diana Ross at our Faculty Frolics show. To this day, I cannot listen to "Stop, In the Name of Love" without seeing his face.
Dinger had a different way of doing things. Other teachers gave out pluses and checks. Dinger gave his classes B's. No one (including him) knew what they meant, but the kids loved them. Dinger and I team taught one year. I did the work and he sat in the back and worked on his new business. I did not care. Just being around him enriched my day.
All of us eventually left that first school. Some, like me, left to be full time mommies, for a while. Some transferred to become administrators and to get away from our miserable AP. Others left when the school was closed for reorganization. (In those days, teachers could actually get into other schools.) Dinger ended up in a Queens school, closer to home. I looked forward to Election Day Staff development when all Queens math teachers got together and we got to spend the day together. Dinger is a technophobe and no matter how much he tried, he could not get the hang of the graphing calculator. As a joke, a bunch of us wrote on the evaluation form how wonderful he was and how we wanted to go to a workshop run by him. The joke backfired when the Superintendant called his AP and he was asked what was going on. But, like always, Dinger took it in stride.
Dinger is retired from teaching, but not retired from life. He still tutors and he teaches a weekend regents review class. He is the social director of our group, calling and making plans for all of us to get together. He plays basketball and runs rings around the twenty year olds.I just got off the phone with him. We all know each other 38 years and our friendships are just as strong today as they ever were.
If every teacher could have a Dinger in their lives, the hardships of teaching would be a lot more bearable.