Who was your most influential teacher? Why?
This was a Daily Prompt last week, and I’m just now getting ’round to it. The image is from Mamma Mia (2) ~ Here We Go Again when the three girls (Donna and the Dynamos) graduated university while singing “When I Kissed the Teacher.” I can’t decide if MM2 surpassed MM1 (simply called Mamma Mia!), so I keep watching them both repeatedly in order to try to make a decision. On the one hand, MM1 had the best songs and lots of Meryl Streep, but otoh MM2 had Lily James (I really love her) and all the characters as their younger selves, which was so well done. They both had Christine Baranski, one of my most favorite actors ~ she is absolutely hilarious. I’ll let you know if I ever decide which movie I prefer, and in the meantime I am forced to watch both yet again. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
So. Teachers. I have to say, without naming names because I’ve mostly forgotten them, that my early ed teachers were pretty meh. They clearly favored the cute, athletic kids, of which I was neither, so I not only felt like an outcast from my peers for being fat and klutzy, but I didn’t feel that the teachers wanted me there either.
That’s a heavy bag of negative emotion for a little kid to lug around every day, and I didn’t have a large, supportive family or neighborhood friend group to make up for it, just my parents who were not that sympathetic. It’s not their fault they weren’t; they just didn’t have the experience to deal with it, plus “bullying” hadn’t hit the media yet, so no one gave a sh!t if kids made up mean nicknames for me. The teachers certainly knew I was being picked on, and yet they did nothing. It wasn’t just me ~ some of the smaller boys were physically hurt by the bullies, and no one helped them either. I guess I was lucky that mine was “only” verbal. If you’re thinking that all the not-cute, not-athletic kids could have bonded and created their own awesome friend group… you’ve been watching too much fiction.
My college teachers at CSUN though were marvelous. I learned so much from them: philosophy, poetry, creative writing, etc. It was a fabulous experience. I wasn’t there to make friends and party, however; I was an “older” student at that point, married, and I did not live that close to campus, but commuted from the other side of the Valley (Glendale to Northridge). There are two notable moments that stand out in my mind regarding my college professors.
One was a philosophy professor, Dr. M. I took a logic class from him, and in my youthful arrogance I decided I did not have to bother learning the boring formulas because, early on, my own reasoning got me to the correct answer every time. I received 100% on the first quiz. So far so good, right? On the next quiz I received a D. I freaked out utterly and burst into tears the second I left the room. There was no way back from this, so I decided to drop the class and filled out all the forms. The last thing I had to do was get Dr. M to sign the form. He refused! What?!? How could he refuse? He made me explain why I wanted to drop, so I told him the truth. He said he’d help me speed-learn the stuff I’d glossed over and I would end up OK. I agreed. And he was right. (This was a completely different experience from when I dropped AP Chem in high school ~ the teacher never helped me when I asked him to and didn’t give a crap.)
You know, I still throw stuff out that displeases me (like the paintings I did this past Saturday ~ barf), but I do think about Dr. M when it comes to jettisoning anything meaningful, not to mention having the confidence to try, try again.
Another notable moment was when my poetry professor, Ms. B, asked me to read some of my work aloud in a bookstore. Of course, I was terrible at it and my throat was so dry my voice cracked. I know this sounds like “stage fright,” and maybe it was, but I didn’t feel afraid of reading to an audience. In fact, I was really looking forward to it. My voice cracks when I read Dr. Seuss to my grandkids, so maybe it’s just a thing I have. In any case, that’s not the point. The point is that Ms. B, a well-regarded poet in her own right, thought I was good enough to read in front of a real audience ~ she didn’t ask everyone in the class. That gave me a huge boost of writing confidence that carries me to this day.
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