This past week I returned, as a teacher, to a place that was a second home during my teen years. A lot of us have either positive or negative experiences of high school. I was blessed to have enjoyed the former. Now, at the beginning of high school, I was shy (yes, in some ways I still am!), and it was anxiety-provoking (and outright painful at times) to come out of my comfort zone. For us introverts, life is a very different playing field, dear extroverted colleagues. I digress, my first years at high school saw me nose-deep in my books and my grades proved it, but with time, I realized I wanted to make more of my high school years (coincidentally, this is around the time I watched the Dead Poet’s Society – awesome movie – and my concept of Carpe Diem began to take shape), and pushing myself to go out of my comfort zone was the way.
Now, during all this time there were a handful of teachers who made it all possible. To any student who has been touched by a teacher to see him/herself in a more positive light, you can relate to what I am about to say. Teachers are in a very unique position to impress positively upon a student. This impression, often unbeknownst to the teacher, can change the course of that student’s life for the better. I had some very special teachers who did this for me.
The first was my English teacher. I will not name her, but if she’s reading this, she knows who she is. She was a tough one (still is), and students often did not receive well her need to push them to be better versions of themselves. I love English (hold your tongue before you call me a nerd!), and her tough-on-you take to teaching, suited me just fine. I viewed it as a challenge to push myself to be a better writer, a better reader, a better student. And that’s how it came to be. This wonderful lady showed me that I had the potential to write well, and she helped me pursue it by giving me the confidence in myself. She took the time to help me tap into a talent that lay dormant just below the surface. She would be the reason I would go on to pursue English as one of my majors in university.
My Careers teacher was similar. Although, he took a different approach to teaching. He was kind, and listened, and seemed to really understand you. He nudged the potential within you gently. His belief in my abilities led me to a leadership camp at 15, a camp that unlocked a lot of what I did not know I had in me. He believed in me before I knew how to believe in myself.
My next two teachers were coaches on my cross country team. One was my French teacher, the other my Biology teacher. Both men were kind and easy to get along with. Our team each year loved them. I remember the first year I tried out for the cross country team and was not able to join for a reason I can no longer remember, my French teacher looked me in the eyes and said, “It’s too bad, because you have what it takes”. Those words were enough. I came back the next year and I raced with my team, and I went on to come back a second year and run the races of my life after spending an entire summer practicing. For my final year, both my coaches recognized my efforts and blessed me with an award.
When I look back at these high school teachers (and there are more teachers from my elementary years), I realize that they all have one thing in common: they went beyond their paycheque-worthy job descriptions. They actually got involved in their students’ lives on a deeper level that allowed them to affect change for the better. They all believed in me and the other students entrusted in their care. And as I continue my teaching career (still in its infantile stages), I am reminded of where my true north lies…always for the students, always for their best.
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