NO STANLEY LEFT BEHIND

I come from a long line of teachers. My Mom taught fourth and fifth grade in Stony Creek forever. My Uncle Frank was, for many years, Vice Principal at Branford High. He had the unique intuition of knowing whom to discipline and how. He could somehow simultaneously maintain order, gain students' respect and avoid conflict with suffocating parents who knew better than to protest his treatment of their little Johnny. For even more years he taught driver's ed in the Branford system. To this day I amaze clients from Branford of a certain age by telling them the name of their driving instructor. One daughter, a daughter-in-law and three cousins also teach.

More on point-at least for this pointless musing-the Mrs. is a teacher. Always has been. Always will be. She taught when I met her; taught when I was in law school; taught before there were kids; and, after a break, picked up again when the last was in kindergarten. And she's still teaching, now 1 st grade at Clarence Rogers School in New Haven, way back yonder behind SCSU.

Teaching, from what I can see, ain't what it used to be. There's no more Dick and Jane. No more, "See Spot. See Spot run". No more "Teacher may I . . . No more Ring-a-Leevio, Tag or Hide-and-Go Seek. Now, teachers spend more time administering and accounting for what they've done than teaching. And the mirage of an education panacea called No Child Left Behind simply drives good teachers nuts. They spend hour after hour filling out forms, charts and statistics to prove that teaching kids isn't easy and teaching inner city kids is even harder. And so while I'm watching Web Gems on ESPN the Mrs. is at the kitchen table, night after night, performing inane Bob Cratchit tasks for a bureaucratic Ebeneezer Scrooge until 2:00 am.

But there is still a certain joy in teaching. It obviously does not come from completing the required forms, charts and graphs, but from actually teaching kids about stuff. I know this, of course, vicariously. And I envy it.

I will now introduce you to Flat Stanley. While we of a certain age may miss Spot, Dick and Jane, you can't help but love Flat Stanley. Think of a gingerbread man form about 8 inches high cut out of heavy stock paper. Each member of the class has one. Then pick up some crayons and color in a face, some hair, a shirt, pants and, if you're into it, some shoes. Then give it to your teacher and she laminates it.

That's just the start. Now we're going to send Flat Stanley on the road. If you're going to travel you can take him yourself. If not, send him with a friend, relative or acquaintance that's going on a trip. Now if you're local, maybe you take him to the top of East Rock or out to Bishop's Orchards or on the Thimble Island Ferry. If you're going on vacation, send him along. And for people traveling out of state or out of country, send him along with them as well.

Now here's the catch. When whoever has Flat Stanley gets to where they're going, you take a foto. Then you send it back to Mrs. Dow, she puts it on a map of the world with a string attached to a pushpin in the location of the foto and-Voila!---You've got yourself a geography lesson.

Not to brag, of course, but I've taken fotos of Stan-we've recently grown quite close-at the edge of the Grand Canyon, at a winery in Oregon and outside the San Diego Padres' Petco Park. I also took a foto of him outside the Kremlin next to Judge Silbert in Pskov, Russia. [That's Flat Stanley on the left.]

Most recently I photographed Stan with my granddaughter, Katherine, at the Lincoln Monument, the Washington Monument and at The Capitol in Washington. Later that day, setting up yet another Richard Avedon shoot at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, one of the horse carriage drivers told us that he was glad to see Flat Stanley back. He had just passed through Philly a week ago.

This is not the full extent, however, of Stan's travels. One secretary's boyfriend has sent back fotos of Stan next to the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre and the Champs-Elysees. Right now he's on a business trip with that same accommodating gentleman to China. With some real luck we'll get a picture of him with the original General Tsao.

We also expect to enjoy seeing Flat Stanley's very recent trip to Australia with Peg Dercole, my dental hygienist from the Levy Dental Group on State Street. Peg advises that she has been fotographing Stan all over Down Under. Peg will be returning soon. Regrettably she's coming back alone, without Stan. She's informed us that Stan intends to remain in Australia til June. There's apparently a Sugar Festival then that's not to be missed.

Stan has apparently really caught the travel bug. I'm told he has a ton of Frequent Flyer Miles.