Thursday, May 06, 2010

Thank you Mrs. Edwards, wherever you are

Mama's Losin' It

Kathy over at Mama Kat's Losing It has some great suggestions this week for her writers workshop. I chose writing a poem to a teacher. But actually, I don't do poetry. Because I suck at it. So I'm going to just write a letter to her.

A little background: Mrs. Edwards was my high school English teacher. I had her for regular English class my junior year, then for AP English as a senior (and I did so well I placed out of two semesters of college English, thanks to her!).

Here is my letter to her:

Dear Mrs. Edwards,

Where are you? I've googled you and searched for you on Facebook, but it's like you've disappeared. Maybe you go by a different last name. Or maybe you don't do the whole internet thing.

I'd like to think of you sitting in some lovely garden somewhere, sipping tea, listening to the sweet song of nearby birds. I imagine you'd be reading. Writing, possibly.

I wonder if you ever think about us.

We were your first Advanced Placement English class, from 1985-86. Rockville High School. Remember? We were a diverse bunch, comprised of brains, jocks, and even a Mormon - which was VERY exotic in our small Connecticut town.

Remember when you had us read "The Hollow Man?" It was the first piece of literature that I didn't get. I mean, I REALLY didn't understand it. To the point where I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do the assignment.

And then, and after much agonizing, fist-clenching, tears and chewed pen caps, I figured it out by, as I tell my son, "using my own brain." You know, that organ up there in my head that does the thinkin'. I discovered, in my final year of high school, that it actually WORKS if someone cares enough to get those gears shifting.

You are the reason why I know T.S. Elliot wrote about wearing the bottoms of his trousers rolled, that Walt Whitman's road less traveled made all the difference. I know these things without having to look them up, because you made us learn pages upon pages of quotes, burning them into our memories.

We read Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. I'd never even heard of existentialism, didn't realize authors really thought and agonized and created astonishing works of art.

I wrote papers that year that, when I came across them a few years ago, I couldn't believe I'd done them. They were really, really good. Better than what I'd slap together later on in college. Or in this space, to tell the truth.

But you know what the best part of your class was? It's when we just talked about Life. When you'd go off on a tangent of some sort - remember you telling us boys get turned on by table legs? - and we ate it up.

You talked to us like we were People, not just air-breathers filling chairs for 50 minutes. You were interested in our thoughts, our dreams, our teenage angst.

You were the first person who really believed I was someone special. You told me I'd blossom in college, that I'd find plenty of boys who'd understand me (I didn't, but of course I didn't know that at the time).

You brought the best out of each of us. This wasn't a small task. But you cared. A lot.

So much so, you only taught one more year after we graduated. You said kids were changing. You didn't enjoy teaching like she used to.

I wonder if you were worried you'd become bitter. Or worse, disillusioned.

So, here's something: I became a journalist, can you believe it? A professional writer. I'd love to know if you're at all surprised, of if it's something you expected.

I really want you to know, no matter what you're doing now, that you mattered. You made a difference to an awkward teen who lacked self-confidence, just by being so sure I'd be okay.

Most important, you opened the best part of me: my mind.

Thank you, Mrs. Edwards. Your lessons are still being learned.


Adelle said...

Janice Roback, 4th grade, Hardine Elementary, Blacksburg, VA

She just wanted us to read. Even if she was talking, we could read. For me it was the green light and I haven't stopped since.

Great post! Great workshop!

Anonymous said...

-sniff- you know my soft spot for teachers (conspicuously rubs eyes) well written my friend.

kirsten said...

there are a number of English teachers who changed my world - one was Mrs White who put me in GT program in 5th grade, and the last was Prof Mahon in my Sophomore year of college who inspired me every time we were in the same room. Then there was the teacher at UMD who gave me my 1st 'F'. Will never forget all that she taught me.

Lisa said...

Oh, I love this post. I loved my AP English teacher as well. Whenever we read Shakespeare or other British poets, she would read the poems to us as if she were doing a monologue, with voices and different inflections and everything...she made it so fun.

All Things Domestic said...

Mine was a college English professor, Professor Sidney Coulling. Incredibly genteel Southern gentleman with amazing knowledge of modern British literature. The man could quote anything and everything. I remember being nervous about a dinner invitation to his home (the beauty of attending a small liberal arts college) and he and his wife welcoming me with their gracious Southern hospitality. Bravo Professor Coulling!

Sarah said...

Great post - I think teachers do think of past students from time to time. My mom does, anyway...

Found you through SITS

Cheryl said...

We just never forget them, do we? Altho the bad ones also stick out (Do you HEAR me Mrs. Parent???).

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