Tuesday, March 18, 2014

30 in 30: Teachers

This this the tenth article in my 30 in 30 challenge, where I write 30 things I'm thankful for in the 30 days leading up to my thirtieth birthday.

"The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows." 
--Sydney J. Harris

What I am most touched by is that the teachers in my life taught me more than the subjects they were required to teach, it was much more than that. Somewhere between learning about the lowest common denominator and the Proxemic Theory, I learned how to be a good human. From the moment I began Kindergarten, to the moment I graduated from college, there were teachers guiding me through my educational path and turned my mirrors into windows. 

The teachers I have encountered challenged me to be my best, encouraged me to do my best and loved me even when I wasn't the best. They taught me to reach for things I want, and if I want it bad enough, there is no obstacle that can stop me. Teachers taught me how to be accountable and responsible for my actions. They taught me to always quench my thirst for knowledge and to learn from my mistakes.

A great example off this is when my fourth grade math teacher sat me down one day after school and showed me a test I took. She began to tell me that I got some of the hardest questions correct and that she was so proud of me. Then, she pointed to some of the problems I answered incorrectly and said that those were the easiest math problems to answer. She then began to tell me that she knows I KNOW the answers, is that I rushed through the problems, or I didn't stop and review. Now why on Earth to I remember that conversation? Because to this day, I forget to stop, think and process. My brain is "against the clock" at all times and my mistakes happen at the silliest of moments. When I get i a rut, I just think back to that conversation and remember to slow.down.a.bit.

Teachers empower. Fourth grade was a big year I guess because a bulk of my educational memory lies there! Anyway, my homeroom and social studies teacher told us on the first day of class that fourth grade was going to suck (without saying that word, of course!) She looked right at us and told us that she knew we could all succeed, and that we were going to learn and do things we didn't think we were capable of. Every test, homework assignment or class discussion ended with her telling us, through a variety ways, how important we were. She was absolutely correct in that fourth grade was H.A.R.D. Many tears were shed that year, but I came out on the other end a better student.

Teachers call you out. Oh yes, they do. There is a laundry list of things I could talk about here but that would take all day! So I'll go over the important ones. I had to rewrite a paper on the last day of school when I was in sixth grade because my english teacher didn't think it was authentically mine (my older sister, might have helped a bit too much.) I cried and protested, but at the end of it all, I sat in the hall and wrote that dang paper over again. In high school I got a violation because I turned my paper in late. I told her I was sick which is why I missed the deadline. She said that it was pretty convenient to be sick the day my research paper was due. As much as I hated being called out for my silly shenanigans, I am so thankful. I first learned that teachers what to know what YOU, their unique student thinks, not anyone else. It also taught me to be open and upfront. If I was really struggling to finish my research paper, I should have talked with my teacher about it. Sure I would have lost points for being late, but it's a heck of a lot better than running away from a deadline. Those teachers might have be the hardest on me, but as I result and I more grateful for them! It's through the hard lessons that I came out a stronger, better student.

In college I had teachers encourage, challenge, cultivate a love of learning and help me find my life's passion. I carry many memories of my college years with me that I will cherish for a lifetime. It was the little learning moments that carried the biggest punch. Did my professor who wrote "Four words: apply to grad school" on my final college paper realize that it would continue to be a source of encouragement eight years later? What about my argumentation professor. Did he know that challenging me to think beyond my frame of reference and to be open to other viewpoints in order to successfully complete a debate, would help me beyond the classroom. I may not be on a debate team, but even today, I know to look at all angles of an argument (or heck, even a casual conversation) before I draw conclusions. There are are the knock-you-off-your-feet statements said in class like,"Words are symbols that are arbitrarily assigned meaning."  That had me wanting to learn more. My love for public speaking was uncovered and refined while at NKU. I would never have pursued Toastmasters if it weren't for my Advanced Public Speaking professor!

I'm not sure there are any words that can adequately describe my gratitude for the teachers who made such a beautiful imprint on my life. "Thanks" just doesn't seem to fill the void, and it doesn't accurately show my appreciation for the work they put in day in and day out. Without their dedication to their vocation, it is without a doubt in my mind that I would not be where I am today. I may not be able to communicate my thanks, but I do hope that I can show what I learned through actions in my daily life. 


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