Do you remember the first time you saw a teacher outside of school? I recall seeing my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Henderson at the Shop Rite (not far from the school, actually) one evening.
Now that I am a teacher, I realize that she arrived early, she left late and was probably just leaving school, picking up some last minute things for dinner that night. It was very foreign and bizarre to see her outside of the class room, casually, so nonchalantly looking for something in the aisle. She saw my mother and I and she said a cheerful hello and I waved at her. She and my mother made small talk and shortly after she bid us goodbye. I recall this distinctly because it planted the idea in my mind that the teachers lived a life OUTSIDE OF THE SCHOOL WHICH IS SO WEIRD AND BIZARRE.
Anyway, I really loved school, I still do. I really REALLY loved my teacher and I have to toot my own horn here and say that she really loved me too. The proof? Years later, I would take some kids I babysat for to the school to play on the equipment. She was there working late, as teachers tend to do and she came outside and said my name. My whole name. My whole name, first, middle, and both last names, with good accent. Her tone was one of surprise, of happiness. I was about sixteen, it had been a very long time since I had seen Mrs. Henderson. My kindergarten teacher still remembered me. She still remembered and recognized me when I was about 19 and waitressing in a Greek joint downtown. Again, she joyfully said my whole name, which is long, but she hit all 12 syllables.
Anyway, the point is I always liked school, I had wonderful and loving teachers, starting in elementary school. My teachers were compassionate, patient and kind. They were all these things even when I couldn’t (or didn’t want to…) count past 20, made backwards letters or would almost tackle other students for the only pink notepad in the class. (I did that, who’s the bully now?). I had teachers who realized I could do math though I didn’t turn a damn thing in all year and still passed me (Mrs. Girvin you’re sort of a saint) and teachers who saw that I had mad potential but needed definite boundaries laid down and followed to the letter (Mrs. Melinda Sharp Dickinson, you probably saved my ass by laying down the law like an Marine Sargent. Good call.).
Middle school was great too- Mr. Taylor made English class so fun, and would sing “Desperado” to me but change my name in for “Desperado”. My Spanish teacher is now a friend and mentor of mine, how incredible is that? I am delighted when I think of the fact that my 8th grade history teacher liked my best friend and I so much he pulled us into his history class in summer school, just to have time to work with us more. We had failed other classes but somehow didn’t register OR pay for that class with Mr. O’Mera. I see him in Mass sometimes and I always hug him tight when it is time to offer the sign of peace. He is a wonderful man and was an awesome teacher.
High school, things were even better, that is where things were the best- My government teacher Mrs. Jenkins told me that she and one my other favorite teachers thought I was “the greatest”. It’s on Facebook, so I have it FOREVER.
My favorite English teachers are legit legends. Mr. Edwards was a larger than life bad ass. He passed a few years ago, but people like him never really die. I remember him warmly, a brilliant man, funny, fierce and DEMANDING. He spared no one a cheeky jab, but class was always a big wonderful affair with him. Mr. Hugh Spagnulo- winner of teacher of the year in the state of MI before I was born- held COURT, not class. I have yet to live something as perfect as his class and I’m hard pressed to believe I ever will. Unless I get into UNAM or Harvard (PS I WON’T) I never will experience a class as exquisite as his class.
Between Mr. Edwards and Mr. Spag , it was some straight up Dead Poets Society up in that piece. We were Carpe Diem-ing the hell out of life. YES TEENAGERS! WE WERE THE FUTURE.
So why am I throwing it back to K-12 right now? Well, because somewhere along the line, I fell through the cracks. I took AP classes, I was always in the gifted and talented programs -for language, not so much the science and the maths. I’m smart enough but I have no patience for things that give me grief. I want to be good at it. If not, I’m over it. I have classmates that went to prestigious schools, have incredible degrees, I have some of the smartest friends on the planet, friends that are changing the world, making laws, working for social justice, literally saving babies.
Me? I fell behind, somewhere due to many reasons. This isn’t to say that I just gave up, no. I have done a great deal of things in the time out of high school and have tried to bloom where I have been planted- doing well for myself in teaching, in IT, in finance (in another country no less, toot toot…)
That said, there is that nagging in the back of your mind, that comes along with realizing your potential was squandered for many years.
But I’ll write more on that later.