Barbara blogs over at Zero to 60 and Beyond. You can find her musings about life after age 60 there.
Education has been on my mind. I’m not sure why. Many of my friends and family are, or have been, in the teaching profession, and I admire them for what they do.
In my dream I was comparing damage done, due to bad teachers, vs. life changing ‘aha’ moments, due to good teachers.
I remembered the teachers who made school a safe haven when home was hell, and I remembered a couple who made school a living hell.
Good teachers were a gift to students like me. They intuitively knew home was dysfunctional and tried to show compassion when needed.
The first bad teacher was in second grade. I had lazy eye and they hadn’t found the correct glasses for me, so seeing the board was difficult if I wasn’t up close. Mrs. Riley refused to let me change my seat. I remember sitting through an ugly conference with her, the principal, and my mother. Somewhere amidst the arguing, making perfect grades became an ambition.
My first great teacher was Mrs. Wilson in fourth grade. I had been an only child until then and she understood how my life was changing with a new brother at home. She always made me feel special. A gift I will never forget.
I also had eye surgery that year and Mrs. Wilson made sure I didn’t fall behind. Not because my mother asked her to. You see, education wasn’t a top priority to mom. Mrs. Wilson did it for me. The world is a better place because of teachers like her.
Do you realize how long ago this was? I’m ancient and dreaming about elementary school. Why? I’m not sure.
The second bad teacher was fifth grade. I went from the sublime to evil. I can’t remember his name because I never thought of him in civil terms.
My swearing vocabulary was more sophisticated than most ten year olds, but nothing compared to kids today. Still, he was a sexist asshole.
It was a fifth/sixth grade combination class. He was incredibly hard on girls and often said we would never be smart enough to understand math. My performance proved him correct, and does to this day.
My fifth grade year was a nightmare at home and having a horrible teacher was no solace at all. I had loved school to that point, for many reasons, not the least of which was getting away from home for a few hours each day.
I have few school memories of junior high. I was in seventh grade when I ran away with my brother and the chaos of those years seemed to never end. I feel fortunate to have passed.
The first two years of high school took place in two different schools. I was an outsider. My grades were good, but friendships were few. There was never time to socialize or join clubs, and you don’t miss what you’ve never had.
The summer between sophomore and junior year we moved to Michigan with the evilest step-father. My mother was obsessed with being Suzy Homemaker, which was amusing, and a relief. It gave me time to experience being a teen.
I discovered art! I was obsessed with art! I am forever grateful to Mrs. Ellis!
I also discovered words and how to put them together. Thank you, Mrs. Pinkenson!
Despite the horrors at home I finally found my true self at school. I believe I was, and am, a better artist than writer, but both make me feel whole. Having teachers who saw my potential and encouraged me was the greatest gift of all.
Dreaming about these teachers, both good and bad, I realize how they’ve influenced me. Just as we learn from bad experiences how not to be, the glimpses of how life should be are magnified when good teachers touch your life.
The fact I was taken back into classrooms of a hundred years ago, (give or take), to analyze the pros and cons of my school years and how they relate to the life I now live amazes me.
Perhaps you can’t see the advantages to both ends of the spectrum until you are far enough away to appreciate how both sides influenced you.
Do you have any teachers, good or bad, who really helped you become who you are today?