I am participating in the Scintilla Project, a fortnight of storytelling. There will be writing prompts every day for the next two weeks. You can follow along on Twitter @ScintillaHQ and by searching the #scintilla13 hashtag for other participants and their stories.
Prompt: Write about someone who was a mentor for you.
Ha. I got you there, didn’t I? Actually, I have high respect for teachers (I come from a teachers’ family!) and think that often they don’t get the appreciation and respect they deserve. Sure, you all know the bad apples that you encounter during the course of your education. Teachers that hate children (and you wonder what made them chose to go into that field of work), teachers who mean well but are ill-equipped to handle a bunch of pubescent 13-year olds, teachers who are wicked-smart but have no clue how to transfer their knowledge to others. I remember a particular teacher from high school who, repeatedly, tried to teach a particular mathematical causality the same unsuccessful way over and over and over again. Ever heard of trying a different approach? I eventually stopped taking him seriously and looked elsewhere for help.
And then you have the occasional teacher who is the complete opposite. She inspires you. She motivates you. She makes you eager to learn and to succeed. She makes you jump out of your bed in the morning, because you can’t wait to get to her class.
I recall such a teacher. She was my favorite and the one that has shaped my professional future more than any other person. My first encounter was in 5th grade.
Mrs W. walked into the classroom and I remember the first feeling that I felt was “fear”.
I know, not a feeling you expect to associate with someone who turns out to be your favorite teacher. She was strict, often cold and not easily to warm up to, and therefore quite intimidating to my shy little self.
She expected a lot from her students, but she also never got tired of explaining and repeating and answering the same question again and again. The joy she gained from seeing a student finally “get it”, and be just as excited about it as she was, was contagious, and the passion with which she spoke of the matters of the earth would later make me wonder how in the world someone could not be interested in geography. I mean, it connects pretty much everything. It’s one of the most interdisciplinary subjects I encountered in school and therefore one that was most closely related to things that were going on outside the classroom. I felt like I was actually learning something for life!
This is how it should be. Teachers should be able to make you fall in love with the subject they teach and inspire your passion for life-long learning.
I admire people who know from a very young age what they want to be when they grow up. I was not that lucky. I was bouncing around from idea to idea, having too many interests to narrow it down to a straight career path.
I am pretty sure though, Mrs W. is the reason I am sitting at my desk here today, having pursued a degree in natural sciences. I wish she knew how much of an impact she had on me as my teacher, how much her classes (she was my teacher on and off again until graduation) mattered to me in the process of deciding what I was going to do with my life. Sometimes we fail to let people know how much they have shaped us and how much they influenced us to become the person that we have grown up to be.