sometimes i need a turtle: outside influences post

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 turtle is brought to you under a creative commons license by mattoid-26 on deviantart:

This turtle is brought to you under a creative commons license by mattoid-26 on deviantart:

[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.]

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  • kevchanwow  On March 16, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    Oh, how I do so need a turtle. What I’m taking away from this post is to find a way to make those slow moments in my life. Through books, through the pleasure of reading, and through finding the centre of myself in my own joys, regardless of what is happening around me.

    I love this post. I love the way your sentences roll across the page one after another. I love the simple and profound message it carries. Thank you for sharing your outside influences.


  • Sandy Millin  On March 20, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    This post is brilliant. I have now made that turtle my desktop image. Thank you so much for writing this Anne, and to Kevin and iTDi for getting the ball rolling.

    • livinglearning  On March 20, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks Sandy. Thanks for reading and for your comment. And I agree that Kevin is a star. I have really enjoyed reading all the other outside influences posts and I wouldn’t have been able to write this one without his encouragement.


  • […] shaped our teaching. Many bloggers have added their own posts to this, include Vicky Loras and Anne Hendler. They have inspired me to write about the women in my family, all of whom have had a big influence […]

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