I’ve had many teachers, most highly unwelcome; the old-timers, the substitutes, the young-lets-be-friends type, all of them contributing in some way to my life as a student. Somewhere along the way I decided on English as my future, I may even teach it someday. Looking back I find my favorite teachers were the ones that made me think the most.
When I was in elementary school I had a teacher named Mrs. McConnell, she taught English. She glided through the room addressing each student individually, guiding us through books old and new. I always thought of her leathery, wrinkled skin as a well-used piece of parchment. I imagined that she loved books so much because she was, in fact, paper herself. She patiently unfurled in each of us a desire to read, to learn; nursing the spark of creativity in our writing like it was precious to her. None of us had any say in picking Mrs. McConnell, nor she us, and yet we bonded in that fourth grade classroom.
Freshman year of high school my English teacher was a dictator; Mrs. Floyd. She stood always behind a breast-high podium, orating with enough passion to put Churchill to shame. Her fists would fly into the air as she read passages from A Tale of Two Cities, spittle hitting the unfortunate front row. Never once would she touch that podium, except to gather her notes. The large wooden pillar seemed to us students as the only barrier between us and her consuming energy. A commander at the front of her troops, she demanded excellence, and pried perfection from our unwilling hands. She shamed the brown-nosers, praised the invisible, all in one effortless stride across the room. With a look she could wither and a sigh she could crumple any student. Mrs. Floyd never placated us, she was never one of those teachers who choose to make every student feel special or right, but rather made us want to live up to her expectations. I have never been so proud of a C in my life.
Today I have three English professors, only two of which I have ever spoken to. One tells me to write a certain way and shows me examples of how my papers ought to look, while the other tells me that other professor’s way of writing is all wrong. Maybe the greatest lesson I will learn from these two is to “give the boss what they want”. A four page essay using all sorts of archaic literary terms for one class, making sure to sound extra verbose, and a two page, first-person essay using “simple”, “clear”, and “vivid” imagery were both expected of me this week. The four pages were much easier, more natural to me. As for the other, never in my life have I tried so hard to be “vivid”, and yet I still seem to utilize the incorrect diction. The novelty of writing an essay for class in a different manner than was ever expected of me has not yet worn off, and I find myself attempting to describe all sorts of real-life things in “simple”, “clear”, and “vivid” ways.
In the end, I consider myself fortunate to have had the occasional odd-ball teacher, the ones that are passionate and rowdy and a little insane have only fueled my desire to become better as a student and person; at least good enough to pass their class, so as to not end up with them for another year.