Who were your favorite teachers?
(Before you read any further, my friends, please see if you can pick out yours truly in the above classroom pic.)
Now back to the question. Who truly was your favorite teacher? You may find it highly likely that you choose such a person, not so much because of what they taught you about academics, but for what they taught you about how to live a meaningful life.
For some it may be difficult to choose “only one” favorite teacher. I certainly had several teachers who influenced my life, and who influence it still even to this day. They helped me change the way I “think” about things - something only the greatest of teachers ever do. Such teachers are worth more than their weight in gold to us.
The first soul I will mention here was actually my kindergarten teacher at The First Church of the Brethren in Bristol.
I remember Miss Kauffman as being big - really big. But then, I was small - really small (so I have no real idea if she was really big or not).
I do remember how she caught me fighting with the biggest kid in class outside beneath the old walnut tree. I was never the violent type, but the kid had said too many bad things about everyone else’s mom one too many times.
Later on, after she had whipped us both, Mrs. K. took me aside and told me how she hated to punish me, but that I had broken a school rule. Then she picked me up with her big gentle hands and hugged me tight, telling me how proud she was that I had stood up to a bully.
From Miss Kaufmann I learned it was okay to sometimes break a rule for a greater cause. Indeed, I have pretty much followed that way of thinking ever since.
Mrs. Nancy Smith taught me in second grade at Avoca Elementary in Bristol. I found her firm but gentle and caring classroom structure to be exactly what I needed. I was ADHD before it was ever given a name. This dear lady somehow sensed that I was trying my very best to “be still and pay attention”, but that I just couldn’t. The way my brain chemistry was wired simply would not let me … and Mrs. Smith somehow intuitively understood that.
When I became so I hyper and inattentive that it seemed I “might bust”, she even let me draw while I sat listening to her (which actually helped me listen to her far better). She knew I wasn’t “being inattentive” on purpose. There was no test for ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) in those days, but she knew I was trying my best.
She also let me read her set of encyclopedias (which I did, voraciously). No, I didn’t read using standardly taught phonics, but that was okay with her. She knew I could read as well as anyone in the classroom - I just did it “my way”. (Many years later I would discover that I am actually dyslexic. Even today I read many things “backwards”. And I write much the same way. It is not at all unusual for me to write the ending of a story first.)
I felt that Mrs. Smith understood me, which is a Very Big Thing between teacher and student. (By the way, I am sitting on the front of the row nearest the camera in this pic. You can easily see by the look on my face I am ready for any mischief that may come my way. By this age I had already become well-acquainted with Mr. Kincheloe - our school principal - and his paddle.)
Later on when I became a teacher myself I would pay a personal visit to my principals before the beginning of each new school year and beg for the rowdiest, most hyperactive, most inattentive, most “learning disabled” children to be in my homeroom. I knew they could all make something special of themselves. And - directly because of Mrs. Smith having once been my teacher - many did.
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