Like every first-year teacher, my first few months teaching music at The San Francisco School were a challenge, to say the least. It was the first music program at the school and so kids not only had to get used to me as a new teacher, but get used to doing activities out of their comfort zone. I remember the assistant administrator’s daughter once refusing to come to class and delight in telling the story of the preschoolers who were practicing marching, galloping, jumping and when it came to running, they ran out the door and down the hall! I needed a crash course in class management!
And at someone’s recommendation, I went to visit a P.E. teacher in Brisbane named Rudy Benton and sat amazed watching him get a hundred kids in a gym joyfully moving and wholly engaged without a moment of chaos. He had a playful series of commands (“When I count to 3, jump three times and run to the other side of the room. Go! Ohh. I’m sorry. I thought my direction was you had to wait until I count to 3. You have to listen to the whole direction. Let’s try again. Ready? Go!! That was better. 1 – 2- 4!!!”), had everyone wonderfully involved with worthy activities and playing well together. After going to see him one more time, my life as a teacher was wholly changed.
Besides the playful commands, he introduced me to sitting postures (long sitting, hook sitting, tailor sitting—later “criss-cross-applesauce), complete control (a yoga relaxation process at the end of class) and a game called Stations that was one of the kids’ favorite for my entire 45-year tenure.
I never visited his class again— his work with me was done after a mere two visits—but I forever appreciated him for his gift to my teaching and always acknowledged him as the source of the above activities, even as I changed and adapted them to my field.
And why do I write this now? I just found that he passed away at 84 years old, leaving me with mild regret that I didn’t touch base in the last ten years to thank him again and reminding me of how much I was indebted to him. So thank you, Rudy Benton and rather than imagine you resting in peace, I can see you organizing games in the other world.