Obscurity Knocks

Earnest, empathetic, industrious, unpretentious, gay Virgo in Milwaukee with a great life, amazing friends, and a wonderful family.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mr. Benfield

During this back to school time, I found myself thinking about my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Benfield. I uncovered this letter to the editor that I wrote about Mr. Benfield back in 1995. Reading the letter 14 years later, the parable part at the end is a bit heavy-handed, but the rest holds up pretty well. I wonder of Mr. Benfield is still living. I hope so. He played an important part in my life.

November 10, 1995

Teacher Stories
Herald Times Reporter
902 Franklin Street
Manitowoc, Wisconsin 54220

Dear Sir/Madam:

When I read the call for stories about outstanding teachers, I immediately thought of Mr. Kenneth Benfield. I was privileged to be a student in Mr. Benfield's sixth grade class during the 1984-1985 school year. While that experience is now more than ten years old, the lessons I learned from Mr. Benfield at Andrew Jackson School have had a tremendous impact on my life.

Mr. Benfield had earned a reputation as an ardent disciplinarian, and his students quickly discovered that he lived up to that reputation. Soon after beginning the sixth grade, our class came to understand that Mr. Benfield expected much from us. Assignments were to be completed on time, and there were no excuses for late or incomplete work. This came as a shock to many of us, since up until this time we had not been held accountable for our work. If your assignment was not completed on time, you had to write for Mr. Benfield. This writing was referred to as "sides." Mr. Benfield would say, "Give me five sides on how your assignment should be finished on time." In addition, late or missing work resulted in the loss of recess privileges. For 11 and 12 year-olds, not being able to join our friends at recess was generally motivation to reform our ways. I remember that when he would correct spelling tests, Mr. Benfield often used a magnifying glass to determine whether or not a student's writing was off the line. In short, Mr. Benfield demanded excellence in all things. Anything less was not satisfactory.

Mr. Benfield believed in personal responsibility. If you made a mistake, you had to face the consequences of your mistake, and hopefully learn something from the experience. He was always fair - he never had "pets" and he did not single out anyone unless he or she deserved it. For this, all of us respected him. He also possessed a wonderful sense of humor, and at the appropriate times, we had a great deal of fun.

So much of Mr. Benfield's teaching translates to life
outside the sixth grade:

If excellence is expected, excellence can be achieved.

There are consequences for all your actions that you must be responsible for.

Live your life with a sense of values.

You will have to work hard to attain success in life.

You must be dedicated to your work.

Life is not always easy, but with perseverance you will find fulfillment.

While being instructed about sentence structure and how to multiply and divide fractions, I was learning something more important - how to live a meaningful and value-filled life.

There is a parable where one person builds a house without a foundation and another digs deep, lays a foundation on rock, and then builds her house on this foundation. Mr. Benfield helped his students to dig deep foundations, so that the structure we later built could be sturdy enough to last a lifetime. The lessons I learned from Mr. Benfield are the rock, the foundation on which I have built my life. I am proud to say that I was Mr. Benfield's student, and I hope he knows that becuase of him, I am a better person.

Steven F.


Post a Comment

<< Home