Last week my kiddos started school. Naturally they’ve already formed an opinion about some of their teachers. Generally speaking, I liked all of my teachers. Sure there was probably a class or two I could have lived without, but I can’t say I hated any of them. (Well….there was that one…)
When I think back to the teachers who’ve influenced me the most, I suppose five stand out in my mind. Four of them are positive. Mrs. Banks and Ms. McIntyre were two of my high school teachers that had a direct impact on me becoming a teacher. Neither of them directly encouraged me to become a teacher, but I modeled my teaching style after theirs. There are normal reasons to admire my two favorite high school teachers. Things like knowing their subject matter, caring about their students, being fair and consistent, and blah, blah, blah. But a lot of my teachers were like that. What set Mrs. Banks and Ms. McIntyre apart was A) I liked their subjects and was good at them and B) the intangible, irrelevant to their subject stuff. For one, Ms. McIntyre’s beautiful nails. Look, if you’re constantly pointing to the board wanting your students to pay attention to what you’re writing, it helps if there’s something pretty to look at mixed in with those linear equations. Mrs. Banks reinforced the importance of having food if students show up to do math outside normal school hours. Our school didn’t win the Math Field Day competition, but Mrs. Banks provided us with doughnuts that Saturday morning. And really, which would you rather have? An award which sits hidden behind the sports trophies in some dust covered school display cabinet or some HOT Krispy Kremes?
Another teacher I have to acknowledge is Mary, a former dance teacher. While my military hubby was doing a training course, I knew no one would hire me to teach school if I was only going to be there for half a school year. So I signed up to take some dance classes at the local community college to pass the time. Mary was…and still is… a force of nature. Talk about a high energy lady! She worked as a nurse, was working on her bachelor’s degree, taught dance, and was a single mom at 44. Her motto about dance class was, “If you can walk, you can dance.” She made life feel like a big party and her home was always open to her dancers long after rehearsal ended. She took ordinary moments and made them special. She is the living embodiment of “It’s Never Too Late.” She just finished her master’s thesis and is talking about going for her doctorate at 61 years old! Perhaps her greatest contribution to bettering my life is introducing me to mimosas. Sure I’d heard of them but wasn’t that for special occasions? With Mary, everything became a special occasion. A bowl of cereal was so much classier with a mimosa.
The next teacher shall remain nameless, not because I’ve forgotten it. I haven’t. I’d like to, but I can’t. What I learned from having to deal with that person is that I need to trust my gut. If I try to change to please someone else, chances are I’m going to piss off myself and suck at whatever task I’m supposed to do. Communicate your expectations up front and clearly. If you lose confidence in yourself, you’re screwed. And if I think about what else I learned from that so-not-my-favorite teacher, I’ll get sucked into a negative vortex and I don’t want to go there. Bottom line, I learned what does NOT work for me as a result of that teacher. Plus, food nor drink nor pretty nails were ever involved. I should have taken that as a sign I was going to be miserable.
The final teacher gets special mention. As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, I was a former baton twirler. A competitive one. I wouldn’t have achieved the level I got to without my private teacher, Laurie. She challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone. She made me sweat over the tiniest details. Body work, speed, catching a 3-turn backhanded under the leg. (That left some bruises!) Many of my lessons were in the hot Florida sun in her driveway. But when it was time for a break, I’d raid her fridge for some sweet iced tea. That tea would get me through the rest of my lesson with a few less drops, smoother elbow rolls, and faster fingertwirls. Eventually, the routine would get perfected and the rewards would come. Kind of like writing. Interestingly enough, when I decided to be a writer a couple of years ago, I found out Laurie had too. In fact, she’s a fellow RWA member. I guess she’s teaching me a thing or two. At least I don’t get as sweaty, but there’s still plenty of sweet tea.