They say that as one ages, memories from long ago are easier to remember than more recent experiences. In my own life, I have found this to be true. I can oftentimes remember the most arcane and trivial things from my past, yet I struggle to remember where I may have set my glasses down five minutes ago.
As luck would have it, long-term memory is an incredibly helpful tool for many reasons. We would all like to believe we learn from our previous experiences, and each of us hopes in some small way that these experiences help to form the basis for any wisdom and understanding we may have acquired over the years. In the season and spirit of thankfulness we are now in, I am especially grateful for my memories and ability to recall the many lessons I learned from some of my own teachers – oh, so many years ago.
From my first grade teacher, Mrs. Migdahl, at William F. Prisk Elementary School, I learned the joy of reading through her encouragement in allowing me anything I wanted to read. I learned my love of history from Miss Chase in the third grade, who had us tune into a radio broadcast on famous Americans each week in class – and we listened! I especially remember Mrs. Theresi in the sixth grade, who right away recognized and appreciated my sense of humor, but who also taught me that with great humor, comes great responsibility.
Mixed among the many positive lessons, of course, are the occasional individuals that allowed me to learn some powerful lessons from them by exhibiting behaviors and practices that even then I understood to be “just not right.” Among these was my seventh-grade English teacher at Leland Stanford Junior High School, Mr. Ackerman. In Mr. Ackerman’s class, your seating each week depended upon your success or lack thereof on each Friday’s spelling test. The whole world knew how well you could spell . . . In the eighth grade, Mr. Cannon believed in giving long reading assignments in class, apparently so that he could read the daily paper at his desk in peace and quiet . . .
Though few and far between, these examples of negative role modeling also served to help me learn more about myself and eventually my career in education. By teaching me how I did not want to treat my future students, I believe teachers like Mr. Ackerman and Mr. Cannon made me a better teacher – albeit probably not purposefully.
So here’s to the Mrs. Migdahls and Miss Chases of the world. Here too, I reluctantly salute Mr. Ackerman and Mr. Cannon. Even more important, here’s to my many colleagues in teaching over the years, and especially those at Holy Spirit School today. Keep up the great work and realize that someday, the students whose lives you have touched will remember your words, actions, and examples. We have each been shaped by our experiences with our own teachers, even as we help shape our students today for their own challenges tomorrow.
As parents, please join with me in this season of gratitude – or during any season for that matter – and take a few minutes to thank your child’s teacher for their work with your children. If possible, take a few extra minutes and track down that former teacher or teacher who helped make you what you are today, and thank them. A sincere note of thanks, in either case, will make their day for the next ten years . . .
‘Tis the season . . .