Students of all ages started back to school a little over three weeks ago, some as early as mid-August. Watching the kids riding the buses and streetcars, I remembered my own years of formal education – some more productive (and happier) than others. I’m also reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower – another nostalgic reminder of the people who inspired me to learn.
I think ‘teach’ is a misnomer. For most of what happens while we are in school, college and university – or actually what should happen – a better word is inspire. A teacher who inspires a love of learning does more than instruct. That teacher encourages an inquisitive mind, opening doors for the student that imparting of facts can never do.
I can remember so many teachers who captivated me with their love of their profession and their charges. Some were mysterious. Some were difficult. Some were cruel and some were saints.
I was never a particularly brilliant student. Competent in most subjects but with little commitment to the hard graft of getting good grades, particularly in Algebra. Girls were not supposed to be good at math or science. Equations evaded my grasp until my 7th grade math teacher, Miss Hughes, gave up her after school hours once a week to give four of us special tuition. When equations clicked for us, we had no idea then what her commitment to our understanding of a mathematical formula offered us and our futures.
If not for Miss Hughes, math would have continued to be my nemesis as it was for so many of my colleagues in community arts organizations. Miss Hughes’s few hours of tuition gave me a grounding in numbers that led to good jobs in the industry that most interested me as well as open opportunities in information technology that never occurred to me as a teenager.
A few years later, I sat in class and listened to Mr. Lombardi talk about language, particularly the English language. His love of language spoke to the heart of what I had always wanted to do, regardless of what job I might have to take. He also gave me the confidence to believe that a career in writing was a possibility for me, even if others urged me to be ‘practical’, be a teacher.
While in university, I detoured into Art and Theater Studies. While studying Art, I found inspiration for my heroine in Wait a Lonely Lifetime (now in paperback). I also took courses in Astronomy and Physics. Eventually, I returned my love of language, first and foremost. The detours provided ample fuel for stories. They also extended my schooling by several years!
During my post-graduate years, I had an opportunity to explore teaching as a career. Although I had a few triumphs and amazing, special moments of being credited with changing someone’s life, I realized I had none of the commitment to the profession that I had experienced. I was and still am a student.
A student can never be bored – there is always something new to discover. For this special gift, from those who are so gifted to inspire a love of learning, I am forever grateful. I would never have become a writer without you.