The Curmudgeon's Quests, by Allan Wooley
When I found out Mr. Parris died, I sat on my porch and wept — the mailman didn't know what to do when he saw me there, blocking the mailbox.
What a heartbreaking loss for the whole world.
Last week, I found out that yet another teacher who shaped my high school experience had died. Though sad, I took comfort in learning that he'd published three books in his retirement.
I'm only on page 20 of Crumbs Cast Upon the Current: Some Stories, Poems, and Essays... but I already wish that all of my teachers would write a memoir before it's too late.
Because here's the thing about teachers:
They have a tremendous impact on our lives. Most people remember every teacher they've ever had, for the rest of their lives. I've written repeatedly about the value of mentorship for young people.
One of my favorite photos from high school. Image: @TheHappyTalent on Instagram.
And while there are definitely drawbacks to becoming an adult, one of the joys is getting to know your teachers as adults.
Learning that Ms. Iverson wasn't just an amazing Orchestra teacher — she also entertained the troops during USO tours.
Talking to Mrs. Moore about the charitable causes she was involved with, and some of the travel she's done to support those organizations.
Nodding when Mr. Weatherspoon insisted, "When you meet the man you think you want to marry... Have him call me."
Discussing generational changes and our growing concerns with Mr. Wolfson.
It made my grieving heart smile to learn that Mr. Wooley had studied abroad in Germany and taught abroad in Italy for a year. I loved learning what it was like for him not just to mentor students in Latin and life... but also to become a grandfather for the first time.
I only wish I'd known about his books sooner, so I could have read them before he died — and then discussed them at reunion, or when I visited the Kingdom Trails in Vermont.
The more I think about it, the more I wish that all of my teachers would write memoirs, as soon as possible.
I don't care if it's PERFECT. I don't care that it's totally, 100% comprehensive. I care that it's DONE.
I don't care if your life seems normal and boring to you — I promise, to your former students who still tell stories about you, there's nothing boring about what you did outside of school.
I want to know what you learned from your 20+ years of teaching.
I want to know how the school where you taught changed from the beginning to the end of your career.
I want to know how you feel the world has changed, and how that's changed your students.
I want to know about the berry farm where you worked during summer vacation.
I want to read your poetry. I want to read your thoughts on American History or Philosophy or whatever it is you've been teaching (or learning about) all these years.
I want to know what you wrote your thesis about in college.
I want to know what you really thought about Saturday classes. (One of my first discussions with Mr. Parris that I had as an adult was about Saturday classes; it was the first time I realized that faculty members liked getting up early on Saturdays and going to class about as much as we students did — and yet! There they were, every Saturday, missing their own kids' soccer games to help us be our best. I'll always remember when Mr. Parris told me, "It would be nice to have Saturdays off, but here's the thing: every Monday after a weekend when we didn't have Saturday classes, students show up less prepared, as though it were last Friday.")
I want to know everything we never had time to talk about, or that I was too young to ask about or appreciate at the time.
Maybe I was too young then -- BUT I AM READY NOW! Image: The Happy Talent on Facebook.
I almost feel like a jerk for suggesting it. I know how busy teachers are — and I know how under-appreciated they often feel.
But the truth of the matter is... Your students will always remember you. And at least some of us are dying to read your memoir.
Here's a video to help you get started:
9/16/2020 10:11:25 am
omg yes. Forwarding to all my teachers.
9/26/2020 08:35:02 pm
Eva, how lovely to discover this post. It brings tears to my eyes and such joy to my soul whenever someone shares a memory of my dad. He was an extraordinary father to me, my best friend and teaching mentor. I pounce on every story of him, every detail, and I hope to collect them all in some kind of memoir of our relationship one day! So thank you so much for writing this. I crave knowing more about the lives of ALL my mentors too!
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