I moved to a small town in Iowa when I was 15 and a half. It’s a nearly impossible age, made harder for this Southern city girl newly uprooted into a town where everyone had grown up together and social groups were totally set.
So, I did exactly what any other first born desperate for friends would do, I joined Student Government. Then, I quickly joined a committee that advertised all the dances, and then I became chair of that committee that same year.
Then because of my snazzy posters (that my friend Shannon-also new, was actually the heartbeat behind), our theatre teacher (whom we didn’t know yet) asked us to help him and two twin Seniors with an elaborate project that brought the forest from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to life on our high school stage. And in that one ask-that one recognition by one teacher-I was saved. From that point on, theatre became my life and my community and my heartbeat. And in a million ways it still is.
The other day when my family and I drove out of Iowa by my old high school, the sun peaking over the hills I rolled down the windows, feeling the slight chill on my skin and breathed in the fresh air. When I closed my eyes, I could feel again those first days of a brand new school, and fall, and the corn fields behind my school, and the loneliness, and I remembered the teacher who didn’t know he was rescuing two new girls from heartbreaking high school obscurity but was, and my throat tightened with emotion because I wondered what would have happened otherwise. How I might have plunged, but didn’t. How that ask set the ball rolling for college and beyond.
Teachers, tomorrow is your day. Tomorrow is your day to love well. To change a life. To notice unnoticed talent. To see a kid’s heart. To ask the right questions. To listen to the answers-no matter what they are. To encourage kids to reach the vulnerable, the outcasts. Your job is to educate and not indoctrinate. To teach kids to love learning, and not fear it. To usher not force kids toward enlightenment. So many of my teachers did that for me.
My husband tells me I’m a hopeless idealist and he’s right, because our job in this life is not to start a giant revolution or have an army behind us or be famous or well known. Our job is to help one person at a time, and the thing is, when we do that-the results are exponentially larger than we can imagine. One student at a time changes the world. Because students who have been taught well, become teachers in whatever field they enter, education or not. And slowly legacy builds. And that is the revolution.
Teachers-your responsibility is awesome. What a calling you’ve accepted and I commend you. Stay the course.
Two years ago, when I picked my biggest kid up on the last day of school, her science teacher took her hands and said “you are beautiful, and smart, and a great artist.” And my girl believed those words. And I believed my teachers when they believed in me.
What a gift. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Lippold, Mr. Hughes, Mrs. Means, Mr. Duree, Mr. Bjorn, Mrs. Ward. Thank you Richard, Jay, Amy, Linda, Cynthia, Dr. MacGillavry. Thank you, Mrs. Conyers-Adams, Mrs. Enck, Mrs. Coughlin, Mr. Van Eyke. Thank you, Dr. Crutchley, Dr. Ross, Dr. Bullock. Dr. Pearson. Every single one of you sparked something in me that changed me forever. Whether it was a new passion, or an idea, or love of learning, or a challenge to be better, to work up to my potential. Thank you.
Lots of people say “never stop learning.”
Let’s all never stop teaching.
PS I cried a little bit when I wrote this.