Friday, November 12, 2010

remembering josh

I recently found out that a dear man I know died unexpectedly. Joshua Beasley was not only a wonderful guy, but he was a wonderful teacher. He was part of a team of teachers at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center. Josh was primarily the center's afternoon enrichment teacher, but he would also fill-in as needed, in all the classes, from infants on up. My daughter started out in the Center's infant care at the age of seven months and graduated from the kindergarten last year, so she knew Josh most of her life. She always liked Mr. Beasley, but last year, when he was her teacher every afternoon, she grew to love him.

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Talking about Beowulf, swordsmanship, the Bodleian Library and the Bayeux Tapestry
My daughter has always bonded with her teachers and has loved them all, but I think that Mr. Beasley was her favorite. He touched something in her, and in me, too. I was able to participate in a few of his lessons last year and was amazed at his ability to deftly include my show-and-tell of the Bayeux Tapestry into his ongoing lesson on Beowulf. Yes, Beowulf, for kindergartners. Josh interpreted classics like Beowulf, Hamlet and Sherlock Holmes for five and six-year-olds and he made them always fun, brilliant, and exciting. He was so excited himself about learning and transmitted his joy and enthusiasm so well that I know my daughter will take that excitement for learning with her throughout her life.

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Lessons learned
We moved away from the area last year—moved on to first grade, so it was unlikely that we were going to see Mr. Beasley anytime soon. But I feel so bereft to know that not only will we never see him now, but that his wonderful magic with learning, his interactive method of teaching children, and his own personal pursuit of knowledge is at an end. There is no explaining or understanding something like this. It is just tragic.
At kindergarten graduation
I see no reason at this point to tell my daughter about Josh. What purpose would that serve? If we were still in the area, and there was a chance she might see him while visiting me at work, then that would make sense. My heart goes out to all the on-the-spot parents and children and colleagues of Josh who have to deal more directly with his loss. My daughter still talks about him a lot, whenever she sees or hears something that reminds her of him. With his love of Tigger, and expertise at drawing Disney characters, that can be quite often. She has wonderful memories and associations, and right now I do not need to taint them with sadness and regret. We've had enough sadness for a while. When she's a little older, if he comes up in conversation, maybe I will tell her. Maybe. Maybe someday she will read this.

I do know that when we walk through a bookstore and her voice suddenly rises to a delighted, excited,squeak as she says, "Oh! Mr. Beasley had that book!" or, "Mr. Beasley drew that picture for us!", I am happy, too. I know that Josh would be pleased to know that he had such an impact. And I hope that my daughter will continue to remember and enjoy what Josh taught her, sharing what she's learned, and realizing how fortunate she was to have had such a great teacher. A teacher in a lifetime.
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