Who was your favourite teacher? I know you had one. We all did.
I had a few memorable ones, but the first and most memorable one was my grade 5 teacher, Mrs. Keating. Before her, I was a goofy kid with my head in the clouds. After her, I was still a goofy kid with my head in the clouds, but felt better about myself for it. She instilled in me a love of writing and generally made me feel like I had a special place in the world. A lot of who I am today, I owe to her.
Teaching has changed a great deal over the years, spanning back to the archetypal one-room school teacher: scholarly, poorly paid, highly scrutinized. The chief and sole reward of the position was the opportunity to enrich young minds, to make a difference.
Sometimes teachers are yet another class of secret hero, changing the world behind chalk-dusted dockers and polka-dotted skirts. Perhaps it doesn’t carry with it the diamond-studded glamour enjoyed by the “heroes” we raise up on pedestals. But there is a small village somewhere in the world — it doesn’t matter where. There is a little girl who is the first in her family to go to school. It took a lot of work for the missionaries to convince the elders and her parents that there was benefit to this. Now she is bumbling off to the small school house built by the people of her village. It’s her first day. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s about to meet someone she will never forget, someone who will give her possibly the greatest gift anyone will ever give her: education. Maybe if we fast forward 25 years, that same girl is an economist, working with the government to bring a better life to people like the ones in her village. Try to tell her that her first teacher, 25 years ago, wasn’t a hero.
Now the job pays better, thank goodness, although I think teachers put up with a lot more attitude and defiance in the classroom. Like that one-room school teacher, though, the greatest reward for most isn’t the pay cheque at the end of the week but the possibility that, some day, one of those children will grow up to do something extraordinary, and the teacher can reasonably enjoy a brief moment of pride in knowing that he or she might have contributed to that. Even better if that young mind — now older — looks back through all of the angsty years, the awkward years, the first kiss, the first love, the first thrill of learning something that made his or her mind explode with possibility, and says, “thanks.”
I haven’t done anything extraordinary. I hope some day I will. But no matter what happens, I still want to say: thanks, Mrs. Keating — today, I am grateful for you.
Who was your favourite teacher? I know you had one. We all did. Tell me about yours in the Comments.