When I left my teaching job a little over a year ago to focus on my health, I truly believed I would never step foot in a classroom again. Postpartum depression had such a hold on me that I believed I was not meant to be an educator and the children I taught everyday would be scarred for life because I was their teacher. (Even though I had wonderful co-workers that told me over and over that what I was doing was okay, I could not hear it.) It was not a pleasent mind to be inside of and I was ready to leave it all behind. Over the last year I have had a lot of time to think, reflect, and remember what is important. I also have a very smart father for giving me a nudge to send my information in for a few library positions which got me talking about what I had loved doing with the students. Even though I didn't get the first or second job I interviewed for, I started to realize how much I missed working with students and made me better prepared for how to answer the questions in the future. It also helped when I ran into a former student and she said she was sad I wasn't teaching anymore, because she had so much fun learning in Language Arts with me.
I have always enjoyed this quote -
“One hundred years from now
It will not matter
What kind of car I drove,
What kind of house I lived in,
How much I had in my bank
Nor what my clothes looked like.
But the world may be ...
a little better because...
I was important in the life of a child.”
― Forest Whitcraft
And as I read the email from my high school alumni association asking for information about how I use my education I got growing up in my life now, I realized the above quote is so true.
I remember the kind smile that welcomed me to Kindergarten and taught me to be kind to others. I remember the soft voice of my 1st grade teacher as she shared her love of reading books with us. I still remember the joy of our teacher having twins on Veteran's Day, and anticipation of her coming back to teach us again. (I never ran in the hallway again after another 2nd grade teacher stopped me and drug me back to my classroom -I swear by my ear - to start all over again!) I remember the joy of a mother watching her son get on the bus to go to Kindergarten outside our window each day in 3rd grade. And the other life lessons she pulled in to teach us as notes were passed and feelings were hurt as we grew into little people. I remember what a warm fuzzy and a cold prickly feel like because a guidance counselor took the time to help us explore our feelings even if we didn't realize that is what we were doing. I love to read books because my elementary librarian took the time to share books with us and create a place where my friends and I could come to read and challenge each other to read new books. I still remember devouring The Orphan Train Children series as a 3rd grader and waiting for my friends to be done to so we could move on to the next one and talk about what we had read. I cannot forget the heartache of having a new teacher mid-year in 4th grade when our teacher made the mistake of trying to make some quick money and got caught up in selling drugs. And even though it was not the same, our new teacher did not miss a beat and taught us what we needed to know! I remember the fear of having the only male teacher in elementary school for 5th grade, but the pride I had when he chose me to be the narrator for A Christmas Carol - the class play we put on and shared with our fellow 5th graders. (I could even see myself sitting behind the wall where we hung our coats and saying my lines when I went to pick up a group of 2nd graders that inhabit that room now.) I also wondered how our Social Studies teacher that year made it through having our class - as I remembered the somewhat naughty things we used to do as we waited in line to go into her room (just imagine girls just starting to wear bras and the boys who wanted to tease them!) and the distraught look on her face as her class piled out after letting her know how much they did not like her. (It was not until I became a classroom teacher and got that same feeling that I understood how much that must have hurt her.)
I remember my middle school principal who took it way to easy on me when I was told on for 'kissing' a boy in the kiln room in the back of the art room. I still do not understand to this day why he was so easy on me and hard on the boy, but I am sure there was a reason. I will never forget the laughter that filled the room when the teacher who took our chairs away if we were caught leaning back on them, lost her balance as she was joining us in reading for SSR with her feet up on her bottom drawer, but her chair decided to tip over and all we could see was her feet sticking straight up in the air! All she could do was laugh at herself! Although I can laugh about it now, because I understand I am tone deaf, I won't forget the hurt when the Choir teacher kindly tried to tell me Choir was not the place for me. I won't forget that a majority of my teachers in 7th grade were also my parents teachers and close to retirement, but still educated us each day to the best of their ability. I am still not sure what trick my 7th grade Science teacher knew, but he had a game he played on the board with drawing and erasing circles that he only lost twice in his whole teaching career. It still baffles me to this day. And who could forget the saying from our LA teacher when she was frustrated with how we were acting "You are dumber than my dog, and my dog is dead!" It was probably true as I have learned after spending 7 years as a MS teacher that middle school kids have a strange brain! Or the Social Studies teacher we could 'trick' into talking about his birds or Iowa sports instead of teaching us Social Studies for the day and the tootsie rolls he gave us when we had the right answer! I will also never forget the lesson I learned from my 8th grade Science teacher when I wrote my answers down to my test and gave them to a friend in the next class so she could use them when she took her test, but she got caught with them and we both failed the test. Or how about the two movies that are ingrained in my mind forever, one from 7th grade Science about animal cruelty and the beating of seals to kill them and the other of a man blowing to pieces at the beginning of Glory in 8th grade Social Studies. But I will also never be cruel to an animal or take for granted the fact that we are the country we are today because of the fight between two opposing viewpoints of our growing country. I will never forget the kindness of my 7th, 8th, and 9th grade basketball coaches after I pulled my achilles tendon and realized I am not coordinated enough for basketball, but they still included me as the manager for the team, until the parents and girls became too competitive for me to understand why missing one point on their stat chart was a big deal when I was watching all five of them trying to get it all down.
I will not forget how to give a speech thanks to great LA teachers in 8th and 9th grade - which came in very handy in Oral Communications in college. I will also never forget how embarrassed I could make my 10th and 11th grade English teacher when I chose to do research papers on birth control, teen pregnancy, and AIDS (just to get him riled up) and the slightly r-rated scenes I threw in my fiction creations in creative writing. I really want to send him a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey and tell him that could have been me if he hadn't stifled my creativity. (He didn't totally put it out, just enough to make me wonder if I was doing something wrong...) I would love to thank my 12th grade comp teacher and HS Librarian for ALL their tips on research and writing. I was truly prepared for college because of them. We had a Science department that kept us thinking - with mystery labs, dissections, and the periodic table. And if I could I would thank my HS Physics teacher for giving me a hard time for deciding to take a different class at semester because I would never need to know Physics in my real life. (A story I told all of my 6th grade Science classes when we began our study of Physical Science at the beginning of the year!) I will never claim that Math is my strong suit, but I do understand Algebra because of wonderful Math teachers who would not give up on my non-math brain. I proudly kept that A circular trigonometry test until I left home for college and I will never forget that 12x5 is 60 after I was called to remember it on the spot everyday for a week until I could remember my simple math facts. Our how about my business teacher who could always tell when you weren't quite paying attention in class and would find that moment to call on you with a question like 'what color is the grass' to bring you back in and make sure you were listening the next time he randomly called on someone. I can also know help my husband each year get his taxes ready for our family farm because of the time I spent being the only student learning computer accounting (the wave of the future) my Senior year. I also had amazing Social Studies teachers that took the time to be sure we were learning the newest things in education. I still remember doing a Hyperstudio project for American History and the painstaking time it took to make and edit each slide so it would present just right! It makes me appreciate Prezi so much more now! I can also still tell you what the Bay of Pigs Invasion was from verse I had from the We Didn't Start the Fire project. I can still hold my own in a debate and realize that I am not always right and that is okay because our government teacher was smart enough to engage us in debating topics that interested us and brought in state legislators to let us debate with too. We may have also prepared a young teacher for his future career when he joined us as a first year teacher our Senior year. We may not have been the best behaved when we lost all our participation points in one class period or drove off in a friends car that was acting as the visual aid of a time machine, but we did make up for it when we created the shirts with his picture and sold them to anyone who wanted them to say we were sorry for the hell we gave him. It probably didn't make up for our behavior, but we were seventeen and didn't really know any better at the time. (not an excuse - just the truth!) I will never be as healthy as I was in high school when my PE teachers made sure I was getting my exercise two to three times a week and made sure I participated even though I would rather walk then run and I could always manage to 'forget' who got me out in dodge ball so I could sit on the sidelines most of the class. I can also be a good mom and wife because I had Home Ec teachers that allowed us to learn how to follow a recipe and drive a car and quiet a crying electronic baby at the same time. Or the French teachers who took on the tough job of teaching us a new language at an age far beyond when brains were ready to learn it. And taking time out of their summer to take us to France to explore the culture. Especially for not sending us home when we got a little too immersed in the culture and drank a beer in a cafe she saw us leaving with the empty glasses on the table. I even learned the hard lesson that those decisions follow you home when I sat in front of a panel of teachers to defend my character as a National Honor Society member if I made the decision to drink underage. I still believe I had a lot of character to own up for my mistake by admitting to drinking the beer in the cafe, but it is true it was not good character to drink in high school. I may not have understood it at the time, but by making the decision to remove me from NHS you taught me the lesson that actions have consequences and that is better than any lesson I could have learned about math or writing. I would not be the person I am today without the influence of my high school journalism teacher and all the things he taught me about investigating, writing, and creating a great publication. He is the reason I pursued television broadcasting in college but ultimately realized I was meant to work with students and pass on my kindness and knowledge to others, thus continuing for my masters degree in School Library Media Studies. His truth, honesty, and pursuit to help us learn in everything we did has truly made me who I am as an educator and a person.
I can also not forget the pride I felt when I heard some teachers talk about how they would miss our class when we graduated because we were so caring and for the most part all got along, even with underclassmen. I think it helped we started off the year on an exciting note by bringing the wooden pig home from Manchester with a shocking 50 point victory on the football field, had a football team that broke out in a Righteous Brother song at the Homecoming Pep Assembly, and had the first winning football season in 10+ years. That was a lot coming from the class they were afraid to have in high school because we were the only 7th grade class stripped of our field trip privileges because of our classroom behavior and the class that broke the shocks on the school bus when we came for freshman orientation because we were bored waiting for the bus driver and decided to jump up and down to see what it might do to the bus. I think you could say we grew up just a little.
I have learned a lot of life lessons since I graduated from high school, but would not be where I am today if all the people who took the time to educate me as a child and young adult would not have been there to start me on my way. I only hope I can be half of that for some child someday. (even if they realize it or not)
I also know I would not be who I am without my family and friends and they have shown up in other posts like I do not regret the things I have done, but those I did not do and many more that will still be written!
The 'tail' end - please share any of your memories from a special teacher(s) in your life!