Mrs. M taught first grade and crated a fun classroom, complete with a corner called Australia that students could visit when they were having a "no good terrible very bad day." On one memorable occasion, she had to explain the concept of tardy to me, as my little friend and I would walk the short distance from my home to the school, meandering in ditches, following our whims and keeping a lackadaisical pace. In general, though, I was an excellent, albeit quiet, student, a bookworm with her own reading group (aptly named "pink") until I started joining the second graders for reading lessons.
I saw Mrs. M at Morningstar Cafe, home of my favorite pancakes. Having seen my Mom a few weeks earlier, she knew the general details of my life, and kept repeating "how cute are you?" I beamed, suddenly that little girl again, so happy to be pleasing my teacher.
Mr. K taught fifth grade, and he was innovative and fun. We read long chapter books in his classes, and played softball outside on warm Spring days. I remember heading outside to play ball, the song "Let's Hear it For the Boy" echoing in my head. Long after I was a student of Mr. K's, he took to playing Santa around town. One year we visited him, and my brother L, nine years younger than I, was astounded that somehow Santa knew so very much about him.
I saw Mr. K at the Holland Farmers' Market, and he was in the thick of things, making a promotional film. He stopped action to talk to me and he kept repeating how proud he was of me and my achievements. He remembered the adjustments I faced in fifth grade, what with a new brother and a new last name.
As I sit here on the Eve of Back-to-Schoolness, I think of my favorite teachers and how seemingly effortlessly they encouraged, inspired, and engaged me and many of my fellow students. I always loved school and I attribute much of that affection to my excellent teachers, who reached out to a quiet, nervous, imaginative girl and reeled her into the world of words and ideas and greatness.
I often joke that my current job is a way for me to stay perpetually in school, and in many ways it is. Though I teach, I'm constantly learning. Students have so much to teach us about their lives, struggles, needs, dreams, stumbling blocks. The day I stop being open to learning from my students is the day that I should stop teaching.
After an amazing summer far outside of my academic role, I'm eager to return to the not-so-Ivory Tower with my renewed energy and optimism, my new dreams and my new supports as strong foundations for the work I do.
I can't wait to talk about the joy of words, the frustrations of the blank page, the challenges and opportunities of college, and feminist approaches to vampire romances with my students. To engage, to learn, to delight.