10:01pm

Thu August 25, 2011
StoryCorps

A Family That Teaches Together Talks Shop

When classes begin at Leith Walk elementary school in Baltimore, Md., Monday, teacher Robin Weems will meet her new first-grade students. And she won't be alone: Her husband, a retired Marine, is her classroom assistant.

And just across the hall from the Weems' first-grade class is their son Jason's classroom, where he teaches kindergarten.

Recently, the husband-and-wife teaching team sat down to speak with Jason about their unique work arrangement.

"She does the teaching. I do the decorating, paperwork... whatever law enforcement's needed," Warren says with a laugh.

"You add an air of excitement," Robin says. "Especially the boys, you know, they just hang on every word that you say. They love for you to read stories to them. Whereas if I was reading it, you know — 'Mrs. Weems is reading, so what!'"

"I tell them while they're there, I'm their father, grandfather and whatever else. We have this thing on the wall, we call it the classroom family. And I have pictures of myself, my wife and Jason, and then I have a picture of all the children on the door, so they all feel part of the family, you know."

"Pop, you've been a teacher to me, to countless other people, and it's not always in the traditional sense of the word," Jason says. "What brought you to teaching?"

"Well, I had a fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Lizt. And she wrote on my report card — I still have it: 'Warren is severely handicapped,' or something like that. And that made me so mad! I failed the fifth grade. And then Ms. Berbridge, she took me under her wing and showed me that I wasn't severely handicapped. And I always will remember her."

"What I do," Warren says, is "I sit back and I figure out what each one of the children's needs are."

"I do it voluntarily now — for what seven, nine years I haven't missed a day," he says. "I didn't even miss a day when she missed a day, because I know if I leave the room for one minute, the class changes."

"So what keeps you doing it, year after year?" Jason asks.

"I guess what keeps me going at it is the way you and Jamal turned out. So if I can just do that for someone else..." Warren says.

"Because I am just so blessed that I had the sons that I have," he continues, "so I feel that it's my obligation to give back, you know. And the rewards are worth it."

Produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher and Brian Reed.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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