With the school year beginning ~ and around here, the school parking lots were filled with teachers' cars yesterday, and the buses are rolling this morning ~ Paul Campbell, S.J. at People for Others asks to hear about the teachers who've made a significant impact on our lives. I so enjoyed the opportunity to give that question some thought late last night after the sadness of yesterday that had begun at 5:45 a.m. and, of course, continues, that I thought I'd post my response.
It occurred to me as I looked at it again this morning that every one of these teachers continues to influence my life nearly every day. If I am thinking about freedom and grace as I take note of an unexpected bird passing through during the fall migration, that's because of great teachers. I am reminded of Sir Thomas More's response to the soon-to-be utterly corrupted Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons, when Rich asks who would even know about him if he abandoned his efforts to exert influence at court and became a teacher instead:
"You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that."
Thanks, Robin, for asking. I particularly appreciate this prompt to write this morning. As I turned into my parking lot, I signaled to a woman headed out of it to "go on" - mostly because she was cattywhampus in the driveway and I couldn't pass her very well. Then she signaled to me and waved a campus map. I motioned to her to wait and pulled on in, and sure enough, she was the mother of a new student trying to follow the campus map to her designated parking.
I gave her what I hope were helpful instructions and said, "welcome to This University!" She was very appreciative.
In my current job I don't have daily or ongoing student contact, and I miss that. But this is why I am here: to represent the University at macro as well as micro levels. Move-in is always so poignant for me, because I remember my own hot August move-in day, back in 1983. 29 years ago this week. Oy.
Mrs. Martindale, my kindergarten teacher, who took the time for her only student who already knew how to read and did lots of enrichment with me. These were things she made on her own time. I still have a wonderful book made of cloth pages ironed with wax paper...each had a picture of an item and what it said (a See and Say before they were invented!) "The clock says 'tick-tock'". "The rooster says 'cock-a-doodle doo'".
My elementary school administrators, who had the same child on their hands the next year. I was known as "the one who can read anything." They moved me into the next year's classes for language arts, up until 3rd grade when there were a group of 5 of us who were in a similarly advanced stage, and then we had separate lessons in our grade levels. It was not a perfect solution, but I am so glad that they and those teachers were willing to take the time and trouble, rather than leaving me with people who were sounding out Dick and Jane.
Mrs. Doerries in fifth grade, who believed I could do anything. (I had proved at that point that math was not my strong suit, but she helped by highlighting the things at which I did excel).
Mr. Nye, in 7th grade English, who had the advanced class reading L'Morte d'Arthur and doing reports to each other on it.
Mr. Dixon, my high school choir director, who taught me so much more than music.
In undergraduate school, Dr. Newman (Modern Lit and Film) and Dr. Dyer (Spanish) were two faculty in whose classes I had the thought, "Now, THIS is what I thought college would be like." In a good way.
In grad school, Dr. Harrison Meserole, a legend in his own time. Then-editor of the World Shakespeare Bibliography, former editor of the Modern Language Association Bibliography. He was a big deal. I took an intro research and bibliography class from him, and I was SCARED. TO. DEATH. of him. (I was all of 21.) What I learned from that class was to think for myself, to make a case on my own and be able to support it, and if I could do both, it would be fine. He also introduced to me the splendid word, "transmogrifying" as in, "It was a transmogrifying bee."
Like the bee, Dr. Meserole changed everything...and so did those other teachers. I thank them humbly. And I thank Robin for this reminder.