Great post from La Shawn Barber, a blogger who I read too infrequently. She writes about the lasting effect a high school teacher left upon her:
Miss G. made us keep a weekly journal, a task designed to help us get the creative juices flowing by writing two pages in a black and white composition notebook once a week. All we had to do was fill up a page — front and back — to get an A. Most of the time, I went over the quota, writing several pages worth of adolescent angst over crushes on football players and going to the prom. One time, I wrote this sprawling “short story” about a dream fantasy, where the object of my affection was the singer Prince, an obsession at the time. I kept it clean, but I used my imagination to transport the reader into the fantasy, and ended the story on an enigmatic note. To my 16-year-old mind, it was cool.
Miss G. thought so, too. “You’re a good writer, La Shawn,” she wrote in the margin, the first time anyone had ever told me that. Comments like, “This would make a good column – save it!” and “Excellent writing!” were sprinkled throughout other entries. Her encouragement gave me the confidence to experiment and open up in the entries.
Not even 10 years older than we were, Miss G. was young and cool. She got us excited about journalism, teaching us how to find “the story” and covering the who, what, where, and when and basic styles of news writing. We watched movies like “All The President’s Men” and “Absence of Malice” in class and learned about journalistic ethics. The subject was great. Doing the actual work, not so great. As I said, I lacked motivation.
Read the whole column. You may have to choke back tears, as I did.
Barber left an open comment thread for others to talk about teachers that made an impact in their lives. It’s compelling reading. Here’s a good anecdote from the comment section:
By the time I hit a public school campus in the tenth year I really didn’t care about anything and wanted the world to know it. My journalism class was the first in the morning and I made it a point to always be late. One morning the teacher, Bill MacKenzie, chewed me out in front of the whole class for it. I came in even later the next day.
He told me to stay after class, “This is it! This is where I get tossed.” I thought.
After everyone else had left he approached me with a look of genuine concern and softly asked, “Is there some sort of problem you have I should know about”?
I was floored but quickly recovered and assured him that nothing was wrong, I’d merely been sleeping late and promised not to do it again. Never did either.
Looking back on it that was a turning point in my life. All my other teachers, both the nuns and lay teachers alike, had never hesitated to unload on me. This guy was 100 per cent different.
Great story. How many others were similarly inspired by this nameless journalism teacher?
Since starting to teaching college journalism last fall, I’ve discovered the fundamental joy in teaching. I’m ashamed that I ever uttered the words “Those who can do, those who can’t teach.” Cynical words from a person who didn’t understood the joys of helping others. In the end, Albert Scweitzer got it right.