Teachers inherently know they might influence or leave an impact on a student, but many of them don't know how significant that impact can be.
I've had multiple teachers who've positively impacted my life, but three came to mind when I first read this prompt. We'll call them Mr. C., Mr. W., and Ms. S.
Now, I've learned over time that although there are things I might find challenging that others do not, it doesn't mean there's something "wrong" with my brain or the way I was born.
This, however, wasn't always the case.
Ms. S was my 9th-grade math teacher.
She was also the first teacher who worried about me.
I used to be more of a math/science brain, but as I grew older, those interests evaporated through my pores and dematerialized into nothingness. So, in 9th grade, there was either a homework assignment or a test I didn't do well on, and Ms. S called…my…house.
In defense of Ms. S, she didn't know what she was setting me up for, but I remember my mother calling me to her room to listen to the message. Of course, I already knew it was a trap, but I was 13. At 13, you have to walk into the trap.
The message, however, caught me off guard because Ms. S didn't say I was a bad student, a slacker, etc. Instead, she said, "I know she knows the material, and I don't know what's wrong, but she's so quiet that I don't know how to help her. How can I help her?"
I don't know if any family members follow my blog, and if they do, this might get back to my family, but whatever. I'm grown.
After that call, I got destroyed. My mother took what little confidence I had and poured hydrochloric acid on top to burn away the rest in the event I mistakenly thought I would amount to something one day.
When I went to school the next day, Ms. S let me know that she called my parents. I told her I knew. And I don't know what she saw on my face, but she worked with me without asking, without prompting, and I think she eventually learned what the "problem" was. The way she took time with me, as well as took time to understand the way I learn, still leaves me in awe to this day.
Mr. C was my 10th-grade math teacher, and he would probably see this as no big deal, but he taught me the most important thing of them all.
Brains work differently sometimes.
We were working on a statistical problem in class as a group, and I, for the life of me, couldn't understand what he was writing on the whiteboard. And, no matter how often he wrote it, he'd get to a point where I felt as if I needed a Rosetta Stone to comprehend what had occurred.
So, after working with Ms. S (I've come so close to writing her name several times, lol), I went to him during one of these study hall/JA periods we had in my high school program. The interesting thing is, even after how kind Ms. S had been, I was terrified of going to Mr. C with a question. However, he was awesome, understanding, and caring, and he said, "I have a hunch. Let's work through the problem again from start to finish."
So we did.
And I needed the Rosetta Stone.
Then he said, "Let me try something."
And he essentially did the problem in reverse.
Now, I wasn't a huge emoter, so my response to making this exciting, electrifying, groundbreaking discovery was…"Oh."
Then we worked on additional problems, in reverse, and I was able to solve them all. Afterward, he told me to remember this for the future because I was 100% likely going to encounter this problem again. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with me; it simply means I learn this particular thing differently, and that's okay.
Lol, I'm actually tearing up.
As for Mr. W, I'll be honest—he might have gotten fired in 2023 for some of the stuff he did. For instance, he used to throw things at me (paper balls, squishy balls, stress balls), and I would let him. Then he'd say, "You have to react. You can't let people do what they want to you. Don't let people do whatever they want to you."
Not sure if I mentioned I was kind of rigid. Like, if I stood next to the Washington Monument, you'd be like, "Whoa, where'd she go?"
Still, I would not react.
I understand now what he was trying to do, but like I said…probably fired. Or he would have received a lengthy suspension.
But what Mr. W did was make me fall in love with a subject—biology.
Remember me saying I used to be a math/science brain? I'd literally assumed my brain no longer had the capacity to learn either subject. However, he made concepts come alive. In his class, I could see blood cells flowing through veins; in my mind, the mitochondria lit up like a power plant.
It was like being taught by Alton Brown.
I was sick quite frequently during the two years he was my teacher, and whenever a doctor told me something, I'd go to Mr. W and say, "Explain this to me."
And he would.
If I saw something on a TV show…"Mr. W, break this down for me."
And he would.
No matter how many questions I had, and I had plenty, he was like my own personal Reddit ELI5.
In another life, I would have gone to medical school and studied rare diseases. In fact, my dream was to be like House, the person physicians called on to solve baffling medical issues. The doctor who'd spend hours poring over a patient's case when everyone else wrote them off in hopes of giving them an answer so they knew they weren't crazy.
An answer which could influence treatment options.
And maybe even recovery!
Of course, I wouldn't ever stop writing, so I'd end up doing both, but I would have been doing two things I love.
These were things Mr. W thought I was capable of!
If only I'd felt the same way back then, you know?
I haven't thought about any of that in a long time, but it's interesting how memories are always there, rocking back and forth, waiting for their turn to hop in like a game of double-dutch.
These three people had a positive impact on my life because so many times, so many times, I wanted to give up on everything. I wasn't smart, I wasn't pretty, I wasn't confident.
I wasn't wanted.
I wasn't worth it.
Yet, in simple and innocuous ways, they taught me that there's always been room for me in this world. To find them, I'd have to look in places I've never thought about looking. And, in those places, I would find comfort.
They were right; you have an audience of admirers of your written work! And You!
I will say, first of all, that I am old enough to be your grandmother. I came across your work by accident. After I retired, I decided to get back into reading the Harlequin and Barbara Cartland novels I read as a teen.
Growing up, I read a lot because I was a shy introvert, who felt like I was the ugliest Black girl in the school! My Mom was a widow raising 4 kids on a small salary, with a little help from Social Security and Veterans benefits. We still did not have enough and so there was no money for new and trendy clothes, we basically wore hand me downs or handmade clothing. I was considered above average as a student and placed in advanced classes, where I felt so out of place with those kids from the popular crowd and those more economically advantaged than my family. I did not say much, as I was very insecure and ashamed of how I looked. So, I can really relate to how you may have felt!
I did have a good relationship with my teachers, as I did not give them any trouble. Too shy! I remember in the 10th grade, I may have been sort of a teachers pet looking back, as my Goemetry teacher would ask me to come by during my free period and help her grade tests for some of her other classes. Being the shy introvert, I saw nothing special about it at that time. It was the little things such as that by the teachers that made being a shy & homely Black girl more bearable!
Good memories like this remind us why GOOD Teachers are being recognized this week! Happy Teachers Appreciation Week!
Also, keep reminding yourself: You are Strong, Beautiful and Needed! You are Enough! 🏾
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It’s so cute whenever you write that, lol. And I’m glad you found me. I’m glad you’re here. We’re kindred 🙂 And thank you!! I do try, but you know how it goes—good days and bad days.