I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

#83 Teachers Who Inspire Us

Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series …

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. –William A. Ward

The day I received the letter, I hadn’t written anything in several years. I recognized my high school English teacher’s name on the envelope. I hadn’t seen or spoken with Mr. Martin in nine or ten years. It was hard to believe so much time passed since I sat in his classroom, drinking in his enthusiasm for reading and writing.

I’ve always been shy, but at the same time, passionate about what I think and believe. As he encouraged us to write about our thoughts, our struggles and our beliefs, I finally felt like I had an outlet to express myself.

After high school, I drifted for a while, but, thanks to Mr. Martin, I always had writing. I wrote poems, songs and essays as I processed my life. Then, I became a Christian and for several years, I didn’t write anything. As odd as it sounds, it didn’t make any sense to keep writing because I finally found meaning in my life. Losing my quest for meaning meant losing my muse.

Then Mr. Martin’s simple, handwritten, one-page letter arrived and changed everything. He wanted to know if I had quit writing. Somehow, he knew. He said he always enjoyed my writing and he encouraged me to pick up my pen again.

By the time I received his letter, Mr. Martin was teaching at a different high school and if he taught 150 students per year (5 classes of 30 students), then 1,500 students had passed through his class since I was one of his students. Yet somehow, he remembered me and my writing.

I began to write again and I haven't stopped. Somewhere, packed in one of my storage boxes in my basement, I still have Mr. Martin's letter. If I were more organized, I would have never packed the letter in storage. I would have framed it and posted it next to my computer so I could see it every time I sit down to write.

But I don't need the letter in front of me to be inspired by it. I received it 15 years ago and it is still working its magic on me. I often wonder how many other students Mr. Martin influenced. He publishes a journal called "Fine Lines" and on its website, he tells the story of a student named Jack who wouldn't speak in class, but eventually found his voice through the written word. If you have a few minutes, read the story. It's movie-worthy.

I don't know if Mr. Martin is the exception or not. I only know that I can name just a handful of teachers I had in high school and he is one of them. And I can name them because they inspired me. They made me care about something because they cared about that subject, and more importantly, they cared about me. Those characteristics should define teachers, vocationally speaking and otherwise.


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