I’m about two days away from going on a month-long break between the Fall and Spring semester. Suffice to say, I’m rather looking forward to working on a combination of pet projects, candidacy exam prep, and the infamous “honey do” list–not necessarily in that order. With the break from teaching, I’d like to deviate (once again) slightly with my focus of this blog. Since I like to use the holiday break as a time to “regroup” and refresh myself as a teacher through reading new books on teaching, updating lessons, etc, I figured I would spend a little time reflecting on some of my old English teachers–the people who (for better or worse) are responsible in many ways for my embarking upon the career I started five years ago.
Not that I’m concerned about many people reading this actually knowing my teachers, as my site statistics reveal my readership is rather… a smallish group, I nonetheless will refrain from giving their names. Besides, there are one or two teachers whose lessons weren’t exactly… the lessons they intended their students to learn.
For tonight, I’d like to start with my 7th grade English teacher and this an email I shared with her a little over a year ago:
Subject: Hello From Former Student
While I am not sure if you remember me, my name is Forrest Helvie, and I was student of yours from 1992-1993. I recently had a conversation with a coworker about how we got into teaching, and you were the first person that came to mind.
I remember clearly time in class spent during the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops, and I still have my old journal from that class. It was during this time that I first encountered J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I recall the constant encouragement you gave to read challenging and interesting books. In fact, your encouragement to read this series spurred my eventual interest in English literature of which I will begin teaching next fall (I work at a boarding school in CT). In addition to teaching English at the secondary level, I am also a college English instructor doing what I can to instill that same interest in reading and writing to older students. I am slowly beginning to publish in various texts and journals in medieval and early modern English, and this summer, I am hoping to begin my Ph.D. in English literature. However, as I told my coworker, I can’t help but think how much of an impact your class had on my love of writing and books just from something as simple as encouraging me to read and write about something I liked. As difficult as life was at OMS, this was always a class I looked forward to attending.
As a teacher, I know most students usually don’t see the amount of work that goes into helping them along. I hope you won’t mind my taking the opportunity to thank you for putting that work into my class that year.
Honestly, whenever I look at a Mead Composition notebook, happy memories from my 7th grade class come back to me of a smiling teacher who constantly encouraged me to read books I liked, introduced me to the school library (another friend during my middle school years), and served as a source of inspiration for why English is such a wonderful field to spend one’s professional life.