Saturday, March 24, 2012

my teachers

I remember all of my teachers.  My husband struggles a bit--but he does have a few that stand out in his mind; ya know, the ones that taught him something he enjoyed or just stood out to him as a person.  I remember all of mine.

I've always known that teachers held a special place in my heart.  I mean, as mentioned in previous posts, from the time I was a wee tot, I always wanted to be a teacher--sure I ventured away from the idea at times, but I always came back to my original mindset.

I was in the SPARK (gifted) program all through school, and we truly became a family.  We had the same teacher for Math and English for all of our years in Middle School and High School (four separate teachers; one for each subject per campus...).  We were extremely close knit; we acted (and still kinda do) like brothers and sisters; we could read each other like a book; we knew how to push each others buttons and we did it often; we stood up for each other and for our little family as a whole;  we loved each other.  Well our junior year, we were told that we would have a new teacher thrown in the mix.  Hold the phone.  This wasn't ok with us--we wanted Mrs. Dav like we were expecting; like it was supposed to be.  But with her teaching AP American History, it just wasn't possible.  So in came Mrs. Polansky...

Most of the best memories of school happened with these love love my SPARK family.
I'm not gonna lie.  We were hard on her.  It took us a good 3-6 weeks to really be ok with and start to accept this "outsider".  But as her quirks became more apparent (we're a really quirky bunch of people so we appreciate the different) and her understanding of us came to light (not everybody gets the way we think and function), we began to break down the resistance.  And by the end of the year, she was just as much part of our SPARK family as any of the rest of us.

This morning I sat through the funeral service of Mrs. Polansky.  She was much too young and much too spunky for this to seem real or ok with me.  She passed away last weekend due to the passing of a blood clot and it caught us all unaware.

As I sat through that service, I began to have a fuller and truer understanding of how deeply my teachers had affected me--all of them, but particularly those three High School SPARK teachers.  We spent so much time with them--they helped shape and mold us into the people we are; they also molded and shaped me into the teacher I am.  Her legacy and life lessons won't only be carried on by her biological children--she also had hundreds, if not thousands of students who will do that too.  

Then I started thinking of my time as a teacher.  How would my students remember the times in my class?  What influence did I truly have on them--or did I have one at all?  What will they remember about me as their teacher?  

Too often, we let the people who truly have an effect on us go unthanked and unacknowledged.  Or we let several years go by before doing so.  

Take full and utmost advantage of the time you have and the opportunities you are given.  The little things actually do matter in the long run.  And never assume that you are not influencing someone and shaping them into a new version of themselves.  

Mrs. Polansky was a fabulous teacher and a fantastic person altogether.  
I'll never forget:

  • Crafting, scrapbooking, and card making in class!  (many, many days...)
  • Falling asleep when she made us watch Billy Budd (the only time I ever fell asleep during a movie in school...)
  • Her introducing us to the marvelous game of Apples to Apples (back before it was popular...she was ahead of the times)
  • Her trying to explain transcendentalism to us while reading Thoreau and Emerson...  I'm an English major and I still don't have that one figured out all the way...
  • She let us read the comic version of Moby Dick instead of the real thing--I mean the real one, it's just so long and boring!
  • Cut out magazine poetry--a lesson I loved and even did in my own classroom with my students
  • When she threw her shoe at Jamie.  Don't remember why, but pretty sure he had it comin'
  • The fact that she made us laugh...a lot
Mrs. Polansky (Po-Po), Mrs. Defelice (Defe), and Mrs. Davenport (Mama Dav)
These three ladies truly helped make me the woman and teacher I became.  They never gave up on me; they taught me with their hearts; they encouraged and allowed me to be myself, appreciating individualism; they set high expectations for me and only accepted what they knew was my best; they truly cared about me, not only as a student but also as Angie; they made me laugh; they counseled me and set Godly examples; they loved me.  And I love them. 
Tell people why you love them.  And don't waste the time you have with them.  Maybe even give an old teacher a call or a letter to let them know how they influenced you.  It's an exhausting profession--but things like that make it all worth it.  

love, angie

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