I wanted to write this post because I love the idea of celebrating the people who have guided me in my life towards where I am today and taught me – in their own ways and by their own examples – lessons that have stuck with me. The hardest part is deciding who to write about.
Should I tell you about Mrs. B, the librarian at the public library who told me I was not allowed to read Clifford books to fulfill reading challenges because I should be reading books that engaged me? She taught me that reading goals are just numbers, but books deserve my time and love.
Or should I tell you about Mr. S., who only survived a year at our high school (I think he got into trouble for being too handsome), but lent me books from his personal collection and taught me meaningful ways to have conversation about books even though he wasn’t one of my teachers?
Or should I tell you about my mom, who reads every free moment she has, and always has? Whenever my brothers or I complained about being bored, her advice alternated between “play outside” and “go to the library.” Family trips to the library always ended in stacks of books, as many as the librarian would let us go away with, piled high in my arms. Those experiences gave me a good repertoire of books to recommend to my current teenage students who ask me what they should read in English.
Maybe I’ll tell you about Lalla. Lalla ran the office in the department of physics. She had that busy place full of vastly different personalities of everyone from Nobel prize-winning professors to graduate students to us lowly part-timers down to an art. There was always a lot of work to do – some of it seemed menial, like preparing for coffee hour every day, and some of it was really important, like organizing the applications for incoming grad students. No matter what it was, she asked rather than ordered us to help. I particularly loved running errands. I loved the trust placed in me. After I graduated, we stayed in touch for a while until she retired. We had lunch together (always with wine) and she told me about her recent trips to Venezia and I always brought her a turtle. I noticed early on that she collected turtles – figurines, charms, and jewelry. She said they were a reminder to go slow. It seemed impossible that anyone would be able to go slow in the kind of environment she worked in, but she made time for wine, for conversation, for compassion. She got everything done without hurrying and always had time for people. And now I find myself working in a fast-paced and responsible environment where I need that reminder. That there is always time for people – for the people who my students are – and there is always time to listen to their stories. I don’t always remember. Sometimes I need a turtle, too.
[This post is my contribution to the #iTDi not officially a blog challenge blog: Outside Influences. Because learning can be found in many places. Please visit the blog to read those wonderful posts.]