Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Honoring Our Teachers

Peter over at The Buddha Diaries has a thread going on teachers who have influenced our lives.

I wonder if you had teacher like this? I think we all did. I'd love to start a thread of tributes to such teachers--is this what's called a "meme"?. Would anyone out there care to pitch in?

Who inspired you? Who led the way to those insights that have guided your life? Whose teaching continues to resonate in your life? Please let me know, and pass on the invitation if you find it interesting.

I've been lucky to have four teachers who changed my life for the better.

In 4th grade, Mr. Carter taught me that if I want a good education, I have to be willing to do it on my own. There were three of us in that class who were bored after the first few days of class. So he got us 5th grade work, and when that was easy, he went to the middle school and got us more advanced work. He never let us be bored -- and he reminded us that if we want a good education, it will be up to us to do it for ourselves in the future.

In 8th grade, Sue Morgan (my communications teacher) suggested that I could write poetry to deal with my father's death -- a practice I continue till this day. She was the first teacher I ever had a crush on -- I would have done anything for her. But she recognized that I had no family support for coping with my dad's death and was wise enough to know that I needed an outlet. In some ways, she saved my life. If I hadn't written out some of my rage in the following years (in bad rhymes and dumb imagery), I may have hurt myself or someone else.

In college, James Dean made me love reading and writing about the books I read. Partly because of him, I changed majors in the middle of my senior year (from psych to English). He taught me to see the psychology in great works of fiction and great poetry. He also took interest in me as a person, which was most important of all. For three or four years, he was one of two father figures in my life. He eventually served on my thesis committee and helped me work through some of the bureaucracy I had to wade through to get an interdisciplinary Master's degree in the humanities (English, psychology, comparative religion).

I want to add one more teacher that I didn't mention in the comments over at Peter's blog. When I went back to school after flunking out of Oregon State, one of my first writing teachers was Bill Hotchkiss. I only took one real class from him, but I soon joined an informal poetry workshop he ran, and I have known him ever since as a friend and mentor. We disagree on so many topics, but his rigorous devotion to inquiry has shaped my own "need to know everything." I have never met another person in my life who is as widely educated in so many different topics. But the best thing about him is his HUGE heart. He will sacrifice anything for his friends and family. I have never known anyone else like him.

Which teachers have helped shaped your life? Drop by Peter's blog or leave a comment here -- let's honor those who have helped make us the people we are today.

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