Thursday, August 16, 2007

Confessions of a Former Teacher's Pet

Once upon a time, much further in the past than it seems, I was a senior in high school. It was a fabulous year, as far as high school goes. I was obsessed with Broadway musicals. I was certain I was "soooo fat" (but man, what I would give for THAT body). I didn't have or need a job. I was without debt. Many of my friends had access to cars and the necessary drivers license to boot. I survived the SAT. I had a crush on a boy named Peter. I sang in the choir and acted in the plays. I was dreamy-eyed about my future. I was also, though I didn't know it at the time, a terrible writer. Until that year, the year my life as a writer began.

One of the most memorable experiences from that year was English class. I spent that school year with one of the best teachers I'll ever have. Mr. S. wore Birkenstocks and had a near-freakish passion for Hamlet. His walls were covered in shelves that were filled with books--cool books that we could borrow if we so desired. He had a fantastic, stand alone big screen television in the room--for watching scenes from the various film adaptations of Hamlet, of course. Yes, Mr. S's class was a definite highlight of my senior year. For many reasons: it was entertaining and engaging, he was personable, we worked our tails off. And, in retrospect, that was the year I learned how to write conscientiously. I wrote many an essay for his class and I had many a consultation about my writing that year. And that has made all the difference.

So, a couple of days ago I was avoiding a task and chose to surf the web to ease my mind about my procrastination. I hit upon my alma mater's website. On the faculty page I couldn't find Mr. S anywhere on the list. WHAT?!? He retired? But how? wha? why?. So, I tracked down his contact info, found his wife's email address (she too is a former teacher of mine, though botany wasn't exactly my forte so it wasn't her I was after). And I thanked him. I gave him an update--that I was an English teacher myself now. That I remember reading "Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" in his class and deciding I hated poetry that very day...only to become a poet myself a few years later. I told him he contributed a great deal to my success. And that was that.

Until today. Today I received my response. And, dork that I am, I was EXCITED! He seemed genuinely happy to get the note. He responded with his usual wit. He was even gracious enough to request some samples of my poetry. (Suck up that I am, I will be sending the carefully selected pieces shortly).

It felt good to write it down. I figured it only took me a few minutes to track him down, say what I meant, and push send. It was time well spent as I was avoiding another task. And I know that when I'm retired I would like to receive such an email from a former student. It would certainly be more pleasant than, say, seeing a former student's mug shot on the 6 o'clock news.

What about the rest of you? Who were the great teachers in your life? Have you told them so? If not, my little homework assignment:

Think back to a teacher that made a positive impact on you, that taught you a lot, that put up with a lot from your class but still came back everyday to endure more abuse and hopefully teach you a thing or two. Think back to a teacher that maybe just did their job well. Track that teacher down, and tell them thanks and maybe a bit about what you're up to these days. Oh, and write a one page reflection about this experience.


Alice said...

You rock kid! I enjoyed learning all about your crazy teacher and reading about his wife's project. I suppose someone has to be the one to deal with a dead beached whale. :)

I will try and think of teacher of the next few days and see about thanking them.

Blackeyedsue said...

My absolute favorite teacher was my HS English teacher. He was smart and talented and had dry wit. I was a teacher's pet and he told me so all of the time. I loved reading already, but he gave me a passion for literature! It morphed into a passion for children's literature and that morphed into working specifically with that in one of my jobs.

I never thought to thank him. I will have to do that. I don't get to tell him that I became a teacher but I do get to tell him that I passed on my love of literature to a couple of young students myself.

Michelle said...

My favorite teacher was Mrs. VanDyke, my AP English teacher. Her love of literature was addicting. And I remember reading "The Death of the Ball Turrett Gunner" too!

Mrs. Bennett said...

did I heare something about you being PUBLISHED? So - are you gonna post your plublished poetry or prose?

The Rookie said...

Mrs. Bennett--I will post it when I'm finished. I have to do a little revision before publication per the editor's request. Can you believe that...I'm working with an editor. Even if it is for a small journal.

Mrs. Bennett said...