“Keep up that fight, bring it to your schools. You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth. You don’t have to do it.” – Donald Trump Jr.
I have been thinking about Mrs. Miller a lot lately. She was impossibly nice, had beautiful blonde curly hair, and taught the 5th grade. I can’t remember much of what I learned in her classroom that year, but I do remember how she made me feel: smart, creative, important.
Her classroom is where I discovered my love of reading. She had beanbag chairs and pillows tucked around her classroom. During reading time we were allowed to move wherever we were most comfortable. She didn’t care what books we read, as long as we read them quietly. It was there – hidden under desks, tucked behind bookcases, or with my back pressed against the corner walls – that I found out I could open the door and step into another world whenever I wanted to, all I had to do was open a book.
I spent those hot Florida days traveling through The Waste Lands and hiding from killer clowns. The worlds I most liked visiting, it turned out, were the scary ones.
When it came time to “graduate” from elementary school she hand selected a book for each of her students. She handed me her personal copy of Stephen King’s Thinner, and wrote a touching inscription on the inside cover. I have held onto that copy to this day. It’s moved around the country with me, it followed with me when I left my parent’s house for my first apartment, and it’s been in every home I’ve lived in ever since then.
It was with me, in spirit, the night I met my husband. I held it in my heart while we sat around a bonfire talking about our favorite books, and bonding over our shared love of Stephen King.
In high school I was lucky enough to have two more great teachers who would change the course of my life, Mr. Banchi and Mr. Scott.
Mr. Banchi was my English teacher, and he introduced me to Johnny Got His Gun and Sr. Thomas Moore. He’d read Shakespeare aloud, his booming voice bouncing off the walls of our small classroom. We were all on the edge of our seats, waiting to hear what would happen next. His outlines were always done by hand, with illustrations drawn alongside his neat handwriting. It’s been almost 20 years since I sat in his classroom, but I still have a folder full of those handouts.
Tucked between the pages outlining the works of Shakespeare and Francis Bacon, are some of my old assignments. I loved writing for Mr. Banchi because I loved reading his notes. My eyes still dart first to the red writing at the bottom. I carried those thoughtful comments and instructions through the years as I struggled with the idea of finally following my dreams.
My dreams of becoming a writer.
I kept another folder full of graded papers (and exceptionally bad poetry) in that box of old school stuff from Mr. Scott’s creative writing class. I learned about themes and tone and exposition in that classroom. And although he didn’t love everything I wrote (I wonder if Mr. The-Narrator-Can’t-Be-Dead-The-Entire-Time hated The Sixth Sense as much as he hated my piece about the bloody scissors #spoileralert), he always encouraged me to keep writing.
These were the lessons that were stayed with me over the years.
And I did. Between working, and living, and starting a family, I kept reading and I kept writing.
I’d write late at night after work. I’d write on my phone during my toddlers dance class. I write now, upstairs in my home office while my husband and kids play downstairs. And all the while I hear their voices, their encouragement, and all of the things those teachers taught me in the back of my head.
This week the president’s son made a speech in which he referred to teachers as losers, and now I can’t get that thought out of my head.
My teachers introduced me to the things that I would grow up to become passionate about, and they encouraged me to pursue those things. I’m not the only one. Teachers do this, and have done this, for children across the world. They show kids their first math problem, their first science experiment, their first tether-ball. Teachers are the ones creating the doctors and engineers and mechanics of tomorrow. And they do it for abysmally low wages, in dangerous conditions, and without much appreciation.
They pay for supplies out of their own pockets, they bring food in for their hungry students, and in some cases they are the only thing standing between a third grader and a gunman. Right now there are teachers striking in order to receive a fair and livable wage for all that they do.
They are striking because we never acknowledge all that they do until they stop doing it.
Now, I have a soft spot for teachers. My brother and his wife are both teachers, my sister went to school to become a teacher. My friends are teachers. Almost everyone I know has been taught by teachers. I, like most of the world, wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for teachers.
Teachers aren’t losers because they teach socialism, no matter where you stand on socialism. Hell, I hate math but you don’t see me calling Mr. Anderson a loser for teaching me FOIL (sorry I hid a fake rat in your desk on the last day of school, Mr. Anderson!!!)
Teachers aren’t losers, teachers change lives. I know they changed mine.
Thank you all for everything you do.
(sorry for all of the melodramatic teen angst poetry)