That One Special Teacher
We All Have Had One
There are many kids who have felt more comfortable around grown ups than they have kids their own ages. Have you noticed that? These are the kids that tend to linger near the teachers or educational assistants, who just want to hang a couple of minutes after class, because there's a certain safety that has nothing to do with feeling bullied at school and everything to do with feeling more at home.
I've been very fortunate. As a teacher, there have been teachers who have taught me through the years and informed who I want to be as a teacher, but there have also been those teachers who have helped shape who I've become as a writer.
I've been writing since I was in Grade 4. I've loved words, loved how they can fit together to bring people places without ever having to leave home, and for the longest time, I tried to figure out how I can be a writer and actually make money at it.
Sometimes, parents don't really get where their kids are coming from when they share their dreams with them. As a parent now, I understand that; parents have generally been about the business of adulting for a good long while, and they understand that a dream doesn't physically sustain you like actually having food on your table and a roof over your head. They know that while dreams are nice, you need more than a dream to survive in the "real world."
Sometimes, parents are less than supportive when it comes to their kids' dreams and sometimes that comes out the wrong way. When I told my dad that I'd love to be a writer, I was told I should find a "real job", leaving me feeling as though writing was somehow not real. I was told by my mother that my writing was quite morbid, though in retrospect I'm not entirely sure that "morbid" was quite the word she wanted at the time. To my teenage self, these were hurtful words, though I knew at the time they had come from a good place. We always want more for our kids than we had for ourselves, and we want our kids to surpass us in talent and scope in so many ways.
So I sought help to become a better writer. When you're fifteen or so, the best place you can turn for help is your English teacher, and I had an amazing one. Grade 11 Advanced English. Miss K; my brain remembers her as being fairly new to the profession, and not seeming as though she was much beyond teachers college. My friends and I thought she was awesome. She was friendly, encouraging and still tough. She even liked Star Trek and used clips from Monty Python to illustrate faulty reasoning; how cool was that? She was the sort of teacher that made us want to be more; at least, I thought so.
So, with story in hand and heart in throat - in spite of my friendly demeanor, I had a hard time asking for help in many ways - I approached her about reading something I'd written, knowing she didn't have to and expecting her in many ways to tell me no, she was too busy. It would have made sense; she had a class of about 30 kids, and when you're talking an Advanced English class, there is a heck of a lot of marking. What I was asking was outside of the scope of the class, and I knew it; she could have very easily said no.
But she didn't.
She listened, she got where I was struggling, and took the time to guide me to be better. She taught me about needing to evoke the senses when I was writing, and all of them. "Bring me to that room," she told me at the time, or words to that effect, effectively explaining that when I was describing something on paper, I needed to transport my reader to that spot that I saw in my head. It was something that I continue to carry with me throughout my efforts to be a better writer.
As simple as the experience was, it was a transformative one, and it taught me so much about writing - and about teaching, though I hadn't realized it at the time.
Over the years since that moment, the lessons that I learned about teaching that day keep coming up.
It's not just about the curriculum; curriculum is nice, it's a great guide, but it's students we reach and teach, not curriculum.
We're helping the people sitting in the desks in front of us to become better people, so how do we do that?
We realize that sometimes, it's all they can do to just show up.
We challenge them to reach for more.
We show them that they have a powerful voice, and how to use it for good.
I've been very fortunate to have been influenced by some outstanding teachers, such as Miss K, and all have helped shape me into what I think of is a pretty decent human being, teacher, writer, mom...and all of that is in varying orders of importance from one day to the next.
Teachers are that safe spot for kids to land, or they should be, because especially now, kids don't always have that safe spot. There might be stuff going on at the homefront that they need to unpack to someone who could perhaps make a difference, and while friends their own age are helpful, they may not have the personal equipment to know how to help.
I'm lucky I have been encouraged by some pretty fantastic teachers along the way, teachers who have both instructed me and teachers who I work with. I hope I continue to push my students as positively as my teachers did with me.
Who was a teacher who encouraged you along the way?