This is my weekly column for the newspaper–in it I reveal a secret I have mostly kept to myself for years, but in sharing it I hope it makes teachers and principals realize how important they are, for many reasons. My high school, KDHS (Kingsville District High School) is in the town of Kingsville, on Lake Erie in Ontario for those of you unfamiliar with the terrain, and the University of Windsor is in Windsor, Ontario, a border city with Detroit, Michigan right across the river:
An Ode to the Teachers Who Cared
The beginning of the school year seems to be the perfect time to write an open letter to all the teachers who made a difference in my life—the good teachers, the generous ones, the ones who did not judge, those who encouraged, and those who cared. And there were many of them. So without further ado:
Dear Teachers Who Cared; Who Loved Their Subject; Who Made Me Care:
As another school year starts, I cannot help but remember the teachers I had who were encouraging; even if in their encouragement they were not always complimentary. Sometimes when a teacher expects more from you than you are giving, you pull up your socks and try to meet their expectations. When it is your work that is looked at critically and not you as a person, then you learn to grow. And you learn how to correct your mistakes.
My academic career was not always a smooth one. Something I have not revealed before is the reason. Plain and simple I was bullied when I was in grade nine. It is hard to admit because I never like to admit I was a victim. I fought back successfully, but not before it affected me and my grades (temporarily). Being bullied makes you question why you are the one “centred out” for “special” treatment— treatment that was unwanted and more than a little unpleasant. Now what is this confession doing in the middle of a letter to teachers who cared? Well, I had some teachers who cared. And a principal who cared. And with their help and that of my parents, the bullying stopped. So, any teachers reading this today should know that you can make all the difference in the world to the kids you teach.
Now back to my ode: I had a teacher in grades nine and ten who loved history, and her love of history was palpable—and even though I went through some tough times in grade nine—I loved her subject, looked forward to her class, and my grades showed it. Even my math teacher in grades nine and ten got me through math with her love of the subject and the fact that she explained everything so thoroughly, that even someone of my pedigree was able to grasp the concepts.
In grade 13, KDHS was the first high school in the area to offer political science, and it was taught by a teacher who had been teaching history forever—and to be honest, he was probably getting a little tired of it. But when he was given a chance to teach something new, something for which he had a real affinity—it was like giving him a new lease on life. It was perhaps one of the best courses I have ever taken. The predecessor to that course was “world politics” taught by of all things, the music teacher. He had great passion for the subject (though it may not have been his first love) and a real rapport with his students. Today, because of those two teachers, I faithfully watch Evan Solomon on Power and Politics while eating my supper. (And needless to say, have covered municipal politics for our lovely town for years).
At university I enrolled in Communication Studies and English, a double major chosen first because of my love of English, and second because I was made aware of a program I did not know existed. I give credit for this choice to my grade 13 Creative Writing English teacher. He had a series of people who attended university come in and talk to us, and one student talked ardently about the Communication Studies course, a fairly new program offered at the University of Windsor. That was when I made my decision to go to Windsor and take the course—which involved television, film, radio, and journalism courses. My point here is that this teacher cared—he took the time to provide us with knowledge we would not have had otherwise and helped some of us make decisions about our post-secondary education.
I took two English courses in grade 13—and the other one led me to my love of Shakespeare—I took all and sundry Shakespearean courses at university too. This teacher was famous for letting his students put on Shakespearean plays, (with appropriate sets and costumes) and we had a riot while learning the Bard’s rich and at times opaque language.
Well, I am running out of room for this week’s column—it is obvious I have a lot of teachers to thank. So as this new school year begins—Teachers: take heart, you do make a world of difference. And Students: take advantage of what your teachers have to offer.