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Thursday, April 7, 2011

In Praise of Mr. Fritsch

Mr. Fritsch was a high school teacher of mine.  He was teaching me and a classroom filled with other kids from the worst parts of the South Bronx.  He was a really, really good English teacher who had a good mind about what would make us learn willingly and what would not.
Mr. Fritsch wanted us to learn Shakespear, when all some of us could think of was, "hope there's something to eat when I go home."  Ours was the underside of society and we were, most of us fed up by the time 13 and 14 years of our lives had passed.
Shakespear?  We couldn't even understand it for heaven's sake!  Archaic language talking about who knows what to who knows who way back in the who knows when.  Of course, we received annotated versions, all the little circles had you search the bottoms of the pages for the meanings, we were not totally bereft of benefit, but all this fancy language frustrated the majority of my classmates including myself.  We saw no value in it. 
When we began to "forget" our Shakesperian volumes at home, Mr Fritsch bethought himself a better plan and took every one of us to the Children's Theater to see Macbeth.
I remember entering the theater and sitting down by my friends, my cocky attitude plainly displayed for the fact that this was just another dull attempt at reaching through the clouds of indifference.
Boy!  Was I wrong.
I remember as the play progressed and I could see that the play was a living thing;  when my friends saw  Lady Macbeth bemoan the bloody hands, when we watched, enrapt to the very last breath of the last word, I knew Mr. Fritsch had won the battle.  He had brought us to see that Shakespear is alive.  That the words he wrote were not just for the age in which he lived, but for today and tomorrow. 
We read through Julius Ceasar and Romeo and Juliet that term and not one of us "forgot" our books again for the whole term.
Between my college education and my High School, I was in a remedial program for a year.  I recall that I was sitting in the little park ourside of the building were the classes were held and I was reading Hamlet.  One of the remedial teachers passed by and asked what I was reading.
"Hamlet," I said.
"Can you understand that?"
"Of course," I answered, "I wouldn't be reading it if I didn't."
"Then, what are you doing here?"
The point of this is that Mr. Fritsch gave me a boost that changed my life.  I was in the remedial program for math and not anything to do with English.  Mr. Fritsch had opened my eyes in such a way that affected me for the rest of my life.
So, this is praise for him, and for other teachers like him who go above and beyond to reach and teach.

Mr. Fritsch's first name I believe was Irving.  He taught at Art and Design High School on 57th street 2nd Avenue in New York City.  This was circa 1965-67.  He was a wonderful teacher and I appreciate what he did for me with all my heart.

Here are our words to paint with today:
simony - belligerant - salacious

These are the last words to paint with, their meanings and usage:
Tumultuous - adj, marked by violent or overturning turbulence.
The American Revolution caused a tumultuous event for England

Facsimile - noun - To make similar,
The artist made a facsimile representation of the painting.

Degredation - noun - To slip to a low or degraded state
The poor people of his country slipped deeper into degredation.

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