My Teacher. My Friend.
When I was 4 years old I started 1st grade. I didn’t go to kindergarten. In Oklahoma it wasn’t required and my mother put me in school early because she didn’t want there to be a gap year between me and my two older sisters. She told the school I was 5 and that was that, no questions or required proof. I looked five years old, so I was enrolled.
I was big for my age, but still a very emotional kid. I’m sure to some of my teachers I seemed like I was behind because they thought I was older than I actually was. I remember having to sit inside during recess to work on writing my alphabet. The simple task of making letters at a desk alone while my friends played outside was excruciating. I remember big wet sloppy tears falling on my paper. I would mess up and erase the letters so hard it would tear the paper and that only made me feel even more miserable. In time, I caught up with my classmates and even excelled. When I graduated high school I was number four in my class. I wouldn’t have gotten there without some really great teachers.
Mr. Terrell and Mrs. Gray
Over the years I had numerous teachers who were excellent. But two of my most memorable teachers were Mr. Terrell and Mrs. Gray. Mr. Terrell taught sixth grade and when I was bullied by my peers, he reprimanded the whole class. When he got engaged he brought his fiancé to school and introduced her to the class. After recess he read to us Encyclopedia Brown and other assorted mysteries. He even brought a CD player to school and played us music at a time when a CD player was so new that none of us kids had ever heard of one. I honestly don’t remember learning in Mr. Terrell’s class, I’m sure I did, but what I remember about Mr. Terrell was how much he cared about his students. His classroom was a safe space for learning and I trusted him.
Fast forward to my senior year in high school and Mrs. Gray was one of those teachers that just made learning fun. I do remember her teaching me lessons much more than Mr. Terrell. I remember learning about Euclidian Geometry and Theorems. I didn’t like math, but I got an A in her class because she made me want to work hard to learn it. She respected us as students and pushed us to be our best and to not make excuses. When you had a problem learning something, Mrs. Gray gave you every opportunity to learn the subject matter and succeed. Once again, like Mr. Terrell, she created a space where students could thrive. She was also a lot of fun. During Spirit Week she dressed up every day, camouflage, hippie clothing, tie dye, she didn’t miss a beat. I can still see her bell bottom jeans, leather fringe vest and headband while she handed us back our tests.
Because I started school early, I was 16 my senior year. Often times I felt the anxiety that many students face in school. But my best teachers were so much more than teachers. They were my friend.
Mr. Hill and Dr. William Weaver
Teachers Show Up for Their Students
In the video above we get to see the extraordinary impact that teachers can have on a child’s life. While Mr. Hill is the only teacher mentioned by name, Dr. Weaver also mentions that other teachers showed up and taught him and helped build his confidence. That’s powerful.
This story is from NPR and here is an excerpt from an interview with Dr. Weaver:
“Weaver, a surgeon who went on to become chief of surgery at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, also paid tribute to his dad and other role models who supported him. His most recent job was as the head of surgery at the VA in Fayetteville, N.C.”
“‘That’s the ignorance of youth and the wisdom of age — when you look back on it you say, ‘How did I get here? How did I make it?’ Because people helped you, whether you knew it or not,'” Weaver said in a 2017 interview.” (NPR)
Teaching is not always a glamorous job. It can often be challenging, but it can also be one of the most rewarding jobs a person can hold.
Thank you teachers for continuing to show up and do what you do. Your students need you.
Leave Your Mark. Teach.
If you are passionate about impacting the world around you there are few places where you can influence the future as much as a teacher. Teachers have the ability to build students up and set them on a positive course that can have a ripple effect for future generations.
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