Well, here it is. I finally know what all you mothers have been talking about every late spring — the end of school is upon us (insert musically dramatic DUH DUH DUH here). I get it. This is the first end of school year for Mary Tyler Son. Summer is a shiny, oppressively hot, blank calendar unfolding before us. The kids are no longer in school and they need entertaining, education, sunscreen, and a plan. NOW.
Before panic sets in (see future blog post entitled Camp Mommy), I thought I would take the esteemed advice of my blogging manager, Jimmy. Last week he posted this on Facebook for all us ChicagoNow bloggers to consider:
Wednesday Discussion Topic: To commemorate the end of the school year, tell us something about a teacher who had an impact on your life. And perhaps blog about it later.
Cool. I can do that. I’ve had a slew of great teachers. There was Mrs. C from junior high. She had a Betamax in 1982, which was beyond super cool. I thought she must be rich. There was Mr. K in high school. He taught me everything I ever needed to know about semicolons. There was Dr. S. from college who just now happens to be the Illinois Poet Laureate. Poet Laureate, people. Yeah, I have been beyond lucky in the gifted teacher department.
THANK YOU, Mrs. C! You saw something in me that I didn’t quite see myself in the 7th grade. Hell, I didn’t see it in myself until I was 42 freaking years old. You saw a writer and encouraged me to nurture the words that came from my head. You suggested I publish. Wow. I haven’t thought about that in years, but WOW. Thank you for that. I was a mess in 7th grade. A smart kid burdened by social anxiety and a brain that was a wee bit out of place in the sea of lip gloss I was surrounded by.
In the end, I did try to publish. My little old 7th grade self submitted a short story to Highlights Magazine. I wrote a piece about a child conceived in rape and submitted that shit to Highlights Freaking Magazine. I just shake my head today. What on earth was I thinking? It’s no wonder I never quite fit in with the cool kids. Oy. I wish I could go back and thank Mrs. C. for all the support and encouragement she provided. Somewhere in a dusty box I have both the story and the gently worded rejection letter I received.
What I love most, though, is that Mrs. C. never raised an eyebrow after reading my story. She handled the poem I wrote about church being full of hypocrites pretty damn well, too. Now mind you, this was parochial school in the time when nuns still taught. I think of that now and feel a whole new appreciation for Mrs. C. Thank you! What an amazing teacher you were to me.
THANK YOU, Mr. K! Lordy, lordy did you intimidate me, Sir. You also made me work harder than any teacher ever did before or since. I am most grateful to you for your enthusiasm, your wit, and your ability to see the kids in your classroom as capable of things far greater than we ever imagined. You demanded excellence, Mr. K., and then made us want to give it to you, helping us to embrace that excellence in ourselves. What a gift that was.
In your classroom I was known as Queen of the Universe. It was, no doubt, a throwaway comment you made in one of your many wry, witty moments, but I cherished that moniker. I still do, when I come across it in the yearbook inscription you left me. Thank you for challenging me and your other students. Thank you for teaching us how to think critically — a trait that is more and more uncommon these days.
Last week I had the pleasure of joining you and your lovely wife in your home to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday. There was food and good company and your still identifiable brand of wit and hilarity. I appreciate it as much today as I did in 1986. And when you shouted out from the grill telling another guest that they should read my words as I write so well that someone would throw their baby out the window to write as well, wow. Let me just say that you may have made my life with a compliment like that. Ahoy, Sir!
THANK YOU, Dr. S! You made college better for me. If I had more guts, I would have followed in your literary footsteps and majored in English, rather than the psych degree that seemed more manageable at the time. No foreign language required for psychology majors. Pfffft, how lazy a choice was that? I am honestly ashamed.
I was kind of a groupie of yours, and hoping that you didn’t realize it. Your class was a bit of a haven for me. You were a real adult — older than us 20 year olds, but not by much, and there you were doing your thing. Teaching your passion and writing at the same time. You were living the life, modeling what one could make of theirs. It was inspiring. It still is.
A few weeks ago I shared with my husband about the day in class you came in, dazed and shell shocked. You explained that you had had a plane scare the night before. I don’t remember the circumstances, if it was faulty mechanics or severe weather. You came into class and poured your heart out to a room full of young adults who surely had no idea what you were talking about, and yet it moved me. I have thought many times, as I got older myself, that I wish I could be in that classroom today, hearing your wisdom, your words. Today I could learn from them. In 1990 I was too young to appreciate their import, despite recognizing their emotion, their weight. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.
So, yes, I have been blessed with the finest of teachers. They have shaped and molded me in ways I am still learning from, all these years later. I hope the same for Mary Tyler Son — a childhood full of caring, enthusiastic, gifted educators.
We don’t appreciate you enough, teachers. I am sorry for that. Thank you for all the light you bring into the world. You make it a significantly changed and better place. I am grateful to you.
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