We have so much to learn from each other. Some people expand our minds with new knowledge, others help us to see the familiar in a new way, or help us rediscover lost pieces of ourselves, and then there are those who show us what not to do or what not to say. Hopefully, those “not” people make fewer appearances than the ones who educate, encourage, and inspire. Most people we encounter (even virtually) can teach us something if we are paying attention and are open to learning. However, the demands of life can rob us of our ability to remain open, to remain observant, but, as artists know, being observant is paramount.
Some observations, encounters with others, are brief but leave a lasting impression. Like the young man I interacted with last night. He is a clerk at my neighborhood market. I have seen him before and each time I do I learn from him. I learn what genuine warmth and compassion look and sound like. He extends that kindness from behind a mask and from a body that does not look like most bodies. His loving energy is contained within a frame that is twisted and asymmetrical and maybe even the source of pain, if not physical probably emotional. We all know that not everyone extends loving energy, especially to those who do not conform to the “norms.” Individuality is a blessing, especially when it is blended with adversity, which often creates an individual who is highly empathetic. He is a gift. He may or may not realize it, but he is also a teacher.
Beside and behind my desk are three bookshelves that almost reach the ceiling. Every shelf is packed, mostly with books, but there are other items too (quotes, photographs, my daughter’s art, student gifts, cards, etc.). My favorite book rows are those that contain classical literature – my preference. The bottom row contains several textbooks, and because I am (was) a Type A, A+ student, I read every page of every textbook at some point along my academic journey. I keep those books because I am also sentimental. Time has helped me to relax with my Type A tendencies. Time has also aided in the fuzziness of many of those textbook lessons. I cannot summarize the chapters in my Exploring Psychology textbook, but I can summarize countless lessons I have learned from many teachers, whether they carry(ied) that title or not.
This post is dedicated to those who do carry the title of teacher, which is especially challenging during our COVID days. Parents – the most influential teachers – are absolutely included in my thoughts. I am not going to describe or summarize what it is like for parents with school age children and teachers these days. As someone with a grown-up child and someone who was a high school teacher, I am not a primary source of that challenging reality. I am going to publicly acknowledge three people who did carry the official title of teacher and who, unlike my dusty textbooks, are carried with me through their actions and words.
Thank you, caring teachers~
Mrs. Tupper (left in photo), Thank you for recognizing my love of reading and learning and for making me feel welcomed and special, every day. Thank you for understanding my shyness and for giving me leadership training wheels. Thank you for helping to organize a pen pal exchange with your former colleague who moved to California the year before. You gave me a connection that lasted well beyond my time spent in your classroom. The pen pal who I met, through letters only, became my long-distance friend and remained my corresponding companion for several years, until I moved away. I wonder if any of her letters were marked undeliverable? Probably.
Mrs. Bergquist, Thank you for being a model of strength, compassion, and intelligence. You carried those admirable attributes and many more. Thank you for being my social studies teacher for two years in the Extended Learning Gifted Program and for requiring us, the ELP kids, to read challenging books that taught history and humanity: the good and the mostly bad. Thank you for helping us to prepare for citywide academic decathlons and for celebrating victories that followed. Thank you for taking the time to ask me to stay after class one day when you noticed something was “off” with me. It was; my parents were divorcing. You were the only teacher to inquire. Thank you for handing me (with shaking hands) the award for outstanding ninth-grade student of the year. Thank you for telling my husband how smart I was, when we randomly ran into you several years ago. Being “smart” is one thing – having a compassionate teacher acknowledge and encourage that, is where the magic of learning happens.
Mr. Kacere (Mr. K), Thank you for demanding the best from us, even though we were just a middle school concert band and life would have been easier for you if you accepted middle-school mediocre. Thank you for enriching my band experience, that began in third grade, and for fostering the absolute love I felt contributing to making individual instruments sound wholly beautiful. Thank you for introducing us to the power of listening to the silence between the notes and how captivating it was when we all stopped playing our instruments at the exact same second, leaving our audience speechless, and leaving you with a smile on your face when we nailed it. Thank you for being equally dedicated to our marching band performances and for putting up with your loud smelly students when we traveled to band competitions.
Not all teachers deserve a thank you. I had a few of those through the years. As we all know, not everyone is gifted with a capacity for tremendous patience, the level that is required to explain something, not once, but maybe dozens of times and to do so without completely losing it on the first, or the thirtieth, asking. Not everyone is able to manage the all-consuming schedule that teachers usually follow. Thank you to those who do.
Thank a teacher today. Maybe that means looking in the mirror and thanking yourself. 😃 Have a wonderful weekend. I will continue doing my best to remain open and observant. 💗 Michele
Picture 1: A “just because” gift from one of my sweet former students Picture 2: My 3rd grade class picture Picture 3: Photo of my former students reading (or pretending to read) in my classroom 📚 Picture 4: My clarinet that I still play – Thanks Mr. K! 🙏🏻🎶
© 2020-2021 Michele Lee Sefton.