Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thanking My Teachers

Last weekend I pulled from The Letter Jar the name of K, my high school journalism teacher. This morning it was D, my kindergarten teacher.

Seeing their names called to mind two sets of school memories that, while very different, have both filled me with gratitude.

I thanked K for encouraging me as a journalist, in class and on the high school paper and yearbook. I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and from people like her I learned not only grammar and news sense but also to develop my own style and to always strive to grow and improve. I've enjoyed a successful writing career--in daily newspapers and magazines, public relations and now blogging--and I wanted to acknowledge and thank K for preparing and supporting me.

I'm still writing the letter to D. I don't necessarily want to thank her for what she taught me--don't get me wrong, knowing the alphabet and how to count to 10 do come in awfully handy--but rather for choosing the profession she did. As I watch my son with his teachers at daycare and my stepson with his at school, I recognize teaching for the incredibly vital and yet extraordinarily underappreciated calling that it is.

Teachers give us knowledge, yes, but the good ones also impart wisdom. They teach--through their words and more importantly their actions--the values of patience, of hard work, of perseverance. They encourage kindness and curiosity and cooperation. They cherish laughter and smiles and triumph.

Obviously when I was 5, D was simply the one who smiled at me each morning, who praised my drawings, who made it all better when I fell on the playground. I couldn't have possibly fully understood then how important a job she was doing. But now, 34 years on, I think I do understand. And I want to thank her--for being there for me, for my little brother and for the dozens of kids who came before us and after us. I'm sure I'm not the first to thank her, and I hope I'm not the last.

What do you remember about your teachers? How is what they taught you alive in your life today?

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