7/12/07

Who Was The Special Teacher In Your Life?



It's the good teachers in this world that make a huge contribution to our world's future, and the future of our children. Who was that special teacher in your life? The one who motivated you to work toward reaching your potential, as well as help you find your place in the world?


I started the seventh grade in the Deep South in 1973, at a recently integrated Junior High School. It was a sticky situation for everyone working in the school system in the southern United States during the early seventies, no one knew how to act or what to do. American History’s portrayal of the civil rights movement in our country really doesn’t do justice to the horror of living in the south during those decades. Almost as soon as my new schools front doors swung to a close, I began to understand more about the world, and my place in it. Their wasn't a school in the south, exempt from racial tension. So you can appreciate the challenge presented to teachers, who spent most of their time breaking up fights, and sending students to the office. I really don’t understand how these teachers managed to cope, but they did, and handled whatever obstacles were tossed in their direction, setting an impressive example to their students, about how important tolerance is in our society.

Our classrooms were often a free for all, with paper thrown in the air, and across the classroom, acts few teachers were equipped to handle, however thanks to everything good, my favorite teacher, Mrs. Wilkins, sailed through the experience. She could hold the attention of her high strung 13 and 14 yr old students, crammed in over crowded classrooms, and at the same time articulate what she expected of them. I , on the other hand, had fallen prey to my environment, and began to smoke cigarettes with a group of kids considered “cool” to seventh graders in 1973. I was vulnerable to my peer’s opinions toward what was cool, and fell in nicely with a popular smoking crowd. However, since Mrs. Wilkins taught my favorite subjects, (besides smoking), I still loved her class. I constantly asked questions off the subject, a quality that irritated most teachers; but, Mrs. Wilkins actually answered my questions, with a small smile on her face. For example, I asked her one time, why our textbook implied that the pilgrims treated Native Americans with decency and respect? Usually when I asked teachers these types of questions they thought I was trying to be funny, and my fellow students did laugh, however I literally wanted to know the answer. As a result of these misunderstandings, I was often sent to the principals office without an answer to my questions.

Toward the end of the year, Mrs. Wilkins had her students write a journal, and leave it on her desk at the end of each class. I really enjoyed journaling everyday, in addition to arguing with her about Emerson, Thoreau, and other matters pertaining to English Literature, and philosophy. Then one day when I acted as the “look-out” for teachers while smoking with friends, I peered through a window, and saw Mrs.Wilkins face, ashen with disappointment. Consequently, it was too late to squash out my cigarette. I remember the sting of embarrassment, and despair I felt from knowing I disappointed my favorite teacher. When she and the vice principal walked me to the office that day, I could feel my ears change color. I cared about what Mrs. Wilkins thought, since she treated me almost like a grown up, whose opinions mattered, and were of interest to her.

As we walked toward the office to work out the details of my punishment, Mrs. Wilkins said something that made an impact on my future, and stayed in my mind forever. The vice principal was talking to her as if I were invisible, and said, “I can’t believe this child smokes, she comes from such a good family”, this wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before, although I hadn’t a clue what it had to do with me. Therefore, I continued to worry instead, about what my mother was planning for me when I got home. Mrs. Wilkins continued with, “You know, Mr. Reach, what the real shame is? She writes beautifully!” I wondered to myself how this could be? I always had the worst handwriting when trying to write cursive, I would get papers back with red marks all over the page. I hated it! What in the world, and who, in the world, is she talking about? I thought perhaps she was talking about a different person.


When I asked her later what she meant, she explained that I had a gift, something special that I could share with others. In the years before Mrs. Wilkins, I was called dumb, or day dreamy, the child off in la la land somewhere, with her head in the clouds. My inquisitive nature only made things worse. If it hadn’t been for a teacher who took the time to read the journal of one of her students, I might have continued to see myself as dumb, without much to contribute; when the truth is we all have something to contribute. Teachers help us, by guiding us on our journey of self-discovery, encouraging us to discover our talents, and providing us with the confidence to follow our passion for our dreams. I think if children have a passion or talent, it saves them from the dangers that come from idle hands, self doubt, or just plain lack of direction. Kids depend on their role models to help them discover their talents, and give them the courage to forge their dreams into reality. Since so often this responsibility falls to teachers, it's the good ones making a huge contribution to our worlds future, and the future of our children. We all need at least one teacher who notices our talents, and expects us to work toward reaching our potential. All children deserve the blessing of at least one teacher, to help them navigate their own ship, through life's rough and unpredictable waters.

For me, that teacher was Mrs. Wilkins, do you remember who that teacher was for you?

10 comments:

Jos said...

Hi Ann, this is truly a wonderful piece! I'd wish all teachers, and those who consider becoming one, would read this. There's such a big need for good teachers in today's world, and so many children that are never brought in touch with heir true talent... Good job! Very inspirational!

Blog Author Ann Clemmons said...

Jos, Thank you, so much for leaving a comment! I've hardly had any readers the last few days, and it's scary! I always worry about posts until I receive a comment! I really did need an optimistic tap on the shoulder!

I'm so glad Christy introduced me to your blog! Not only do you write well, you're a great blog buddy! :)

Ann

Jo Beaufoix said...

What a beautiful post Ann, and thanks for visiting.

I had a teacher called Mrs Norton who was fair, very funny and also very aware of what was happening for us as kids.

She was someone who I could talk to about anything and who I knew would listen and give me an honest answer.

I hope she's still there when my kids get to big school.

Blog Author Ann Clemmons said...

I hope so too! I think great teachers are born, not made, since there seems to be great ones in every town and every generation. That being the case, your children have a pretty good chance of having one, even if Mrs. Norton retires.

It sounds like she's great!

Thanks for the comment, and I'm glad you stopped by- :)

Ann

eagerblogger said...

My First Grade teacher is special to me. She was a witness to my wedding and she visited me in the hospital when I had a miscarriage and after I gave birth to my second child. She has become an honorary grandmother to my children. She's always there to support me. :)

Blog Author Ann Clemmons said...

Wow! I'm glad you read this post! I wish I had the opportunity to tell Mrs. Wilkins how much of an influence she had on my life! Some teachers never know what a difference they've made. It's great that your first grade teacher has been able to see how things have turned out for you. It sounds like you're special to her!

Thanks for your comment, eagerblogger!

Ann

DesigningFairy said...

What a beautiful tribute to your teacher and a funny way to find out you are a writer! Will you always think of smoking with writing? :)

Reminds me of 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Sprague, who told me I had a great imagination and loved my stories. Teachers are so important.

Blog Author Ann Clemmons said...

LOL! Yes! But it has a negative connotation attached, thank goodness!

Don't you wish we could tell them what a difference they made?


Thanks for visiting designing fairy, I really enjoy your blog!

Mrs. Sprague was right! :)

Ann

Hayley said...

Reading your piece about a special teacher reminded me of Mr Taylor. He is the one teacher that inspired my love of creative writing, his patience and encouragment is one thing I shall never forget.
I found out he has just retired after forty years at the same school in England.
With that said, I think your blog is great, it's kept me hooked throughout and I shall be returning to view more so keep up the good work. Love it!
Hayley
HayleysPerfect.blogspot.com

Blog Author Ann Clemmons said...

Hayley, I'm thrilled that you enjoyed A Nice Place In The Sun, as well as this post. Teachers are indeed one of our most valuable resources without which many a wonderful writer would not have existed. I'm glad you stopped by and I can't wait to read your blog. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment.

Ann

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