Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday's heroes are teachers

Hello girls! It's Monday!

Nano Count: 50234! I have won! Last night, in an 8500 word push after stalling out over most of Thanksgiving! The story is nowhere near finished, but I made my word count, and more importantly, I beat my brother. Not that everything's a competition between us . . .

Everyone's meals sound fantastic! Alexandra, I will definitely try your suggestion when I make my chili again, and now I want to try and cook everyone else's recipes, too! Who knows? If I get my kitchen stocked and ready, I may become culinary yet!

As for this week's theme, let's talk about heroes.

I always hated this question when I was younger because I didn't really know how to answer it. Truth be told, I still don't. I never followed the classic superheroes and Prince Charming made me want to punch things, so I always felt like I had resort to real people who no one had heard of.

But I was a huge fan of Helen Keller for a long time. I read her autobiography when I was nine, I believe, and I saw The Miracle Worker for the first time a little before that. Helen Keller was inspiring to me. She overcame a whole lot of adversity through her drive and determination, and I could never imagine living in the world she did, dark and silent, and being able to move past that.

Now, Helen Keller still inspires me (and Helen Keller jokes are not in any way amusing to me; I find them incredibly distasteful), but the more I studied her story, the more I realized that, while heroic, she would never have been able to accomplish all she did if it hadn't been for the stubbornness and determination of her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Anne Sullivan made Helen Keller's accomplishments possible. She looked at the wild, seemingly untrainable hellion before her, and she saw the intelligence and the passion and the potential, like all good teachers must.

And as I reflect on my heroes today, I am struck by what they all have in common: they are all teachers. Not necessarily my personal teachers, though many of them all, but they are all teachers because that is, in many ways, the truest kind of legacy.

So. My heroes are:

Ethan Lillard, a 10-year-old who died of brain cancer. He was my cousin and he taught me that every day is a gift and that optimism is everything. He taught me that life should be lived with a song and a smile, and that family is the most important thing.

Mike Mack, a high school math teacher, who once ran a footrace with me in the hallway before I knew who he was. He was dry and sarcastic and intimidating, and he once told his eight and five year olds that the ice cream truck only played its music when it was empty, but he made calculus make sense (almost), and he let me banter back and forth with him, and I'm convinced he once gave me pity points on my final grade in pre-calculus to bump my percentage up to an 89.5 so that I wouldn't get the first ever B on my report card because of two-tenths of a percent after I'd worked so hard.

Steve Taylor, a middle and high school band teacher, who took a shy, awkward, unpopular girl and gave her the one non-elected officer position because he knew she deserved it but would never be given it by her classmates. He gave me private lessons once a week for eight years, knowing all the while I that I didn't practice anywhere near the amount I was supposed to. He taught me that scoring a III at contest wasn't the end of the world, and that any dream was worth pursuing if I wanted it, even if he really wanted me to pursue the French Horn into college instead of theatre.

Connie Ballard, a fourth grade teacher. She had the reputation of being the meanest, strictest, scariest teacher in the entire school, and I cried when I found I'd been put in her class.She kept us in at recess if we skipped even a single problem in our homework or if we failed to accurately recite our multiplication tables. She was, in fact, the strictest teacher I have ever had. She was also the best. She let me sit at her desk during five-minute oral book reports and talk for twenty minutes about the books I was reading. She asked if she could enter the poems I wrote in my journal into a writing contest because she thought they had a chance of winning. When I got the lead in the high school musical, she came opening night and sat in the front row. She was entirely invested in my education and in me as a person beyond just as a student in her classroom, and I will never forget her for that. Yes, she was strict, but we learned from her. And what we learned, we didn't forget.

And now that I've graduated college and am teaching myself, my students have become my heroes. Because they teach me so much, about myself, and about how to be a better teacher. Their energy and enthusiasm inspire me every day, and I have so much still to learn.

Famous heroes are all well and good, but I find it's the personal ones that end up meaning the most.

Alexandra, I'll see you tomorrow.

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