It’s the new school year; and while fresh school supplies and new shoes and clothes come to mind, so do all the teachers who influence our children.
Their marks—good and bad—are imprinted on our souls.
Not finding my glue or fearing being left behind brought me to tears too often in first grade to get any sympathy. Instead a “crying jar” was placed on my desk to help me toughen up. It didn’t stop the tears, only caused unwanted attention from unsympathetic classmates. That is an example of a bad mark.
Other teachers stood out for other reasons, like my fourth grade teacher who shared my middle name which was important since some kids said it was a boy’s name. Obviously those children still needed to learn about such names as Pat, Terry/Terri, Bob/Bobbi, Ray/Rae, Billy/Billie, Ashley, Adrian/Adrienne, Alex, Andy/Andi, Darcy/Darcie—you get the idea. Looking at cow tongues and eye balls left an impression on me from my fifth grade teacher. He also posted pictures as story prompts. What a great idea for getting our imaginations flowing.
We moved three times in one year once so there were a lot of teachers that year. In sixth grade, my teacher helped me with my math because my new school was ahead of my old. He went above and beyond because I remember my parents took me to his studio in another town (he must have done art as a hobby) for instruction. He also intervened during a troubling period with peers. In junior high, the teacher I feared in seventh grade became one I admired by the end of eighth. When I see him out now, I’m always pleased to introduce him to my children.
In high school, my English teacher encouraged my writing and even took me to a conference. Her enthusiasm contributed to building my confidence. My science teacher encouraged me in my interest to teach and pushed me as I raced in track. The 400 m and 800 m were my races, but once he had me run two miles. I protested, but he was right. I could do it. My history teacher encouraged us to think outside the box. He also chaperoned a group of us to Washington, D.C., and New York City for an essay contest we were in. My home economics teacher listened to my teenage woes and let kids hang out in her room over the lunch hour and before school. My typing teacher treated me with respect and trusted me to relay an important message. Math has never been my gifting. My math teacher understood and once when I was taking a test during study hall because I had missed the class for some reason, he asked if I needed a break. I certainly did. Could I go outside to scream, I asked. He said, no, but I could go get a drink of water. It is always nice to be understood.
In college, my advisers helped me get into full classes. Someone in the Journalism Department recommended me to be the student selected to spend the day at the then Milwaukee Journal (now Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). What a privilege that was! The two professors who encouraged me the most were Angela Peckenpaugh and Dr. John Nichols. Ms. Peckenpaugh’s gentle instructions and spontaneous laughter guided us as we improved our craft. When I was feeling like the task was impossible, Dr. Nichols used my work as an example of how it was done, saying words that made me believe I was going somewhere someday.
All the teachers I hold in my heart invested in me, encouraged me, cared about me. Those are the type of teachers I want for my children—those who embrace who students are and nudge them to be better. We want teachers of integrity who challenge our children and leave positive memories.
I also want to be that type of teacher. We are all human and make mistakes, but may the good stand out. May students everywhere be blessed by special teachers, who shine in their hearts and in their classrooms.
Do you have a favorite teacher or two?