Think back quickly to your elementary school days. Was there a teacher or class that you really liked? Is there a time when you were really happy, felt good about yourself?
I know in my case, it was my fourth grade teacher (some of my Facebook friends may even remember him – very few, though), Mr. Beaumont. He was a wonderful teacher. He treated us with respect. He cared about his students –we all knew it. He even made his own motivational system to inspire students to achieve goals for themselves. I felt smart in that class. I learned a lot. Mr. Beaumont was the first teacher that made me feel interested in learning, who noticed that I was bright and made me feel empowered. We all used to go back to visit him when we entered the middle school because we missed him so much.
Then I had a teacher in English teacher in middle school, maybe 5th or 6th grade, who also took an interest in me. She was a teacher who you either hated or loved. One day, after I handed in a writing assignment, she took me aside and said to me, “You’re really talented, Lynne. You really should do something with this writing.”
Her name was Mrs. Blanche, for those of you who may possibly remember her. I had never thought about myself having any special ability of any kind. She loved my writing, though. Not only did she love it, but she saw a special gift in me that I didn’t even know I had. From then on, I worked very hard in that class. English was one of my stronger subjects, but each time she gave us a writing assignment, I remember wanting so badly to impress her – I worked harder and harder at it.
High School was different. The only talent I had was taking 11th and 12th
Grade English at the same time. I don’t remember liking any particular teacher. No one really motivated me. I didn’t even do that well on the English Regents Exam (NY) – got a 78 or something, which was rather a disappointment because I considered myself a good English student.
Yet, I ended up with a 100 and 98 on the Math Regents; which was definitely not my forte. Just ask my husband – he’ll tell you. Just shows you how much Regents Exams tell you a lot about a student. Not. I was, however, a reporter and an editor of the HS paper.
I graduated HS with a 92 average. In college, I majored in English, joined the college paper, and wrote a bunch of articles that made first page. Word processors had just come out on the computer then – a friend taught me how to type papers. (Yes, that’s how old I am).
Anyway, as a hobby, I started writing fiction in between classes to help ease my stress. I always liked writing stories growing up and I suppose this was my way of dealing. I wrote romances novels constantly. One right after the other; even remember showing some of my friends and reading some to my boyfriend at the time. Everyone told me I was talented and enjoyed reading them; so I wrote more and more. One day, I saw a notice on the wall for a Fiction Writing Group. That was when I met the man who inspired me the most. He was the head of the Writing Center. A friend and I (yes, Sandi –who’s still my best friend) got jobs
working at the writing center helping other students with papers. Dennis was the Director. He started this group and I told him I wanted to join it. Every week we met and he would read and listen to every romance I wrote. There were others who joined the group over the years. They would come and go but Dennis and I remained committed to this group.
He would correct my writing and help perfect it and I got better and better as I
went along. In fact, I lost interest in report writing for the school paper and this became the most exciting event of every week for me. It was strictly a
professional thing; Dennis was also an English professor at the University. He even brought his work in for me to read and critique one day. When graduation came, I asked if he would come to my English graduation because he had meant so much to me over the years.
He inspired me every week. He believed in me. I worked because I loved it so much and I learned by being critiqued in a gentle way. I became a better writer because of him. He was honored, came to my graduation, and even met my parents. I was sad about never seeing him again. I remember him saying to me, “You’ll never stop writing, Lynne. You love it too much.” He was a special man with a good heart and a wonderful, caring teacher.
Those words meant so much to me in the years that followed. It took me a year to find a job and it was at a bank as a receptionist. Even then, when I had free time, I would write fiction as a hobby and in the jobs that followed. When I finally got a job in editing, I called Dennis and told him. I was so excited to get a job in my field. He was happy for me.
I was getting married and I caught up with him on news in his life. Six months into my engagement, we had to move to New Jersey and finding an editing job in Central New Jersey was next to impossible. In fact, finding any job and starting over was very difficult, so I started working in healthcare. (Yeah, that’ll be my next blog – never know what you’re going to end up doing or where you’ll end up going).
Fast forward. Six years later, I had a son. I finally got a job as a report writer and worked while Michael was little. It was convenient hours and I could work from home, what could be better? Well, the money, but writing was never a
high paying field.
Two years later, when my son got diagnosed with autism, my first instinct was to write. I submitted my article to “The Special Parent” and got my first piece of writing published. So excited, I immediately called or e-mailed Dennis and told him. He laughed and said, “Who ever thought the student would get published before the teacher?” I never knew he was never published. He tried for years, had an agent but apparently never had any luck. He was proud of me. I’m still in touch with Dennis. I’ve written about 10 articles or so about my son and one about my daughter – all published - so I guess you could say I achieved my dream.
The point I’m trying to make is a good teacher can change a person’s life. Do I believe we should get rid of the bad ones? Absolutely. They should be fired like they would be in any other profession. However, teaching is still an undervalued profession in this country.
My parents were both teachers; maybe I’m a little biased. Both my parents had children they taught who remembered and thanked them years and years later. I remember my father telling me when I was young that he made as much a garbage man and he was an educated man with a teaching degree but he did it because he loved it. They both did. There are still good teachers out there. Maybe your children have some.
Trying to devalue them by taking away their benefits is disgusting in my opinion. Teachers are our children’s future. If we want better teachers, we need to design a system that pays them a higher starting salary than other fields. It seems like simple logic to me and yet it’s the benefits that we use as incentives. Then you get people wanting to be teachers for the wrong reasons.
It’s not enough. In other countries teachers and elders are revered. Why not here? What is wrong with a society that values baseball players and movie stars over people who work every day to inspire and teach a new generation? Until we realize the full value of our teachers, the US will always be behind other countries.