Dena Anderson's Learning Story


Eleanor Fogle Harrison was a "spinster", when she was my teacher. All she had ever done was teach in our small town South Carolina high school far from the glamour of her home town of Charleston. She was not a pretty woman, but she was handsome in a feminine way. She carried herself with dignity and decorum and she could make any story in our literature book glow. She used all of the conventional forms of teaching; lecture, guided reading, pop quizzes for the never do wells who were not listening. But the thing that she did that no teacher I had ever known to do before her was to read aloud the stories from our textbook to us. Not every story, not every day, not the entire text, just sometimes, some parts, but when she did she modeled the flow and expression that one should know for oneself from the sound of the voice within ones own heads. I learned to do something I had never been taught before, to read to myself and hear my voice teaching me because of that sweet teacher who was warm and open and excepting of herself, and thereby us her students. Years later, when I taught sixth grade literature, I began to read to my students but with a bit of a twist, because of Miss Fogle, who became Mrs. Harrison after I graduated, I knew that if I read to them and had them read along silently, they would learn to read more effectively to themselves and thereby better learn for themselves when they had to study alone. What I did not know at that time was that studies show when we read along, as we are read to, we work the left and the right sides of our brains simultaneously, a very rare occurrence in life activities and one that helps to strengthen our ability to learn. Mrs. Fogle-Harrison molded not only my ability to learn but my ability to teach without even knowing it. She was the greatest teacher I ever knew and my students had a better teacher because she taught me.