Hello September

English: Picture of Dillon Hall, part of the U...

English: Picture of Dillon Hall, part of the University Of Windsor, ON Campus. Category:Images of Windsor (Photo credit: Wikipedia) I TOOK MANY OF MY ENGLISH COURSES IN THIS BUILDING–IT IS ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL, AND OLD!

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).

Ambassador Bridge, between Windsor Ontario and...

Ambassador Bridge, between Windsor Ontario and Detroit Michigan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

   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.

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46 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. A well deserved shout out to all the terrific teachers out there who have inspired, mentored, healed and engaged – and I echo your hope that students take heed…

    • thanks Mimi – it was hard to reveal that I was bullied

      • I know LouAnn – and I felt your reluctance to do so…and perhaps projected some of my own visceral response, for I had my share of life-altering bullying experiences (when I was 8 – which totally affected my world view and again when I was in jr high and horribly overweight – which further impacted me in ways I don’t need to explain). Raising it in this context though focused the story on the incredible teachers who were there for you, far more than the deep pain of the memories of being bullied. But the discomfort with the disclosure? I’m there with you my friend – I am truly there with you.

      • thanks Mimi–I think we were not alone and it will always be a part of us–but I think we have successfully put it in our past (for the most part–but we both remember, don’t we?)

      • I agree – behind us yes, though never forgotten..

  2. Your post brought back some nice memories. Nice tribute. There are special teachers out there. It is a noble profession.

    • It is a noble profession for those that engage it and use it fully–and many many do

  3. “When it is your work that is looked at critically and not you as a person, then you learn to grow.” This rings so true to me because it is. Anyway I’m sad that you experienced being bullied as a kid. Though this is one topic that also intrigues me because I think that teachers can mediate and do something.
    Like you, I also have a few teachers to thank. All the values they taught me and charm for who they are. Especially now that I am thinking of starting a career in teaching too.

    • A great career choice! I and so many like me were bullied but we got through it–it was before there was a social media–now I cannot imagine cyber bullying

      • Oh god it’s worse or worst. People nowadays. How can we be so cruel…
        It’s good that you were able to get through it. But you must be aware as well of all the others who ended up with not a trace of self-confidence or worse who end up committing suicide.

      • that is the tragedy and we must all step forward – I revealed it because I hope in some way it will help someone else–those who are so cruel should be given power

  4. I am so sorry you were bullied, but I am happy that you had some good teachers/principal there to help you. Big hugs to you. What a lovely tribute to those who do their job and engage their students! 🙂

    • In the scheme of things, I think it made me stronger–but no one should have to be made stronger by cruelty

      • I absolutely agree. I am sorry that was how it happened to you xo

      • thank you–I am not surprised by your compassion–but it happend decades ago and though I remember it, I hope I am past it

      • Remembering fuels empathy by which sharing your experience helps others. That’s you! ♥

      • that is why I did it–glad you recognized that because it was not easy admitting it

      • It’s not easy, that part we understand ~ but your courage in sharing and revealing what helps others, makes all the difference in your life and in others! I love that we’ve connected! Big hugs to you! ♥

  5. I was history teacher 33 years. Appreciate the post.

    • I loved history as a subject at school and history itself–as a teacher you must have had a lot of satisfaction mixed in with everything else you had to contend with

  6. I’ve had a few great teachers over the years too – who were able to take an average student and inspire scholarship grades. My favourite is still Mr. Holmes, our grade 8 teacher (he taught both my husband and I). He was on day parole for a series of DUIs, and the school board wanted to get rid of him, but the parents fought valiantly for his continued presence in our school – he took a lot of low income farm kids and taught them how to learn, take notes and study. I used his methods of note taking and studying all throughout university.

    He was our favourite teacher – we still see him around the community sometimes and have had the opportunity to tell him so in the past.

    • what I like about your story is that mistakes do not make the man or the teacher–and he sounds like he made a great contribution — to you and your community

  7. Dr Mitchell, my chemistry master at grammar school, was a wizard. I still think of him, 40 odd years on.

    • they stay with us, the good ones, don’t they?

      • He certainly has. I once got 112% in an exam because he thought I knew more than could have been expected.

  8. Excellent post, LouAnn!

    Teaching is an increasingly difficult profession but also a very rewarding one. I’m sure that the teachers who read your column were encouraged by it and reminded of the reasons they chose their profession in the first place.

    • I so hope, because they really do make a difference in their students’ lives

  9. Timely post Lou….Krista and I were talking just today about the impact teachers have. We had a great discussion about the teachers in her life that made a lasting impression.

  10. Teachers do make a difference. I have a few who because they cared and were passionate about their subjects inspired me and taught me to love learning!

  11. My husband was not a good student and suffered through school, but loved his junior high history teacher because he taught how history pertains to students of junior high age.
    I have been working on a Favorite Teacher post, too. Guess it’s that time of year! I really enjoyed this one.

    • it is heartwarming the difference a teacher can make–look forward to your post

  12. I really think teachers are some of the most underrated people in the world. I remember nearly all of my teachers (some more fondly than others) and you’re absolutely right in that when you meet the ones who are passionate and genuinely care not only about their subject but their students, everyone becomes more motivated to work harder and push their potential. I’m sorry about your bullying experience and it really is something extremely difficult to admit, maybe even to yourself. But I’m glad there were people there to help you and that you were open to the help that they gave you.

    • I think we truly appreciate the teachers who cared, who loved their subject, who cared about us–as there are some who do not–but that is the mix you get when you put people into an equation
      I guess after all these years, I have not forgotten the bullying, but it does teach you lessons and make you less likely to pick on someone

  13. I definitely think this is a great post, seeing students everyday, I know not everyone respects teachers for their wisdom and generosity in sharing it!


    • a lot of times you not appreciate something until you look back on it–I did not appreciate the teachers who called me on the fact that I was not working up to speed–but now I am happy because it made me realize I had to put effort into it in order to get something out of it

  14. The teachers who enjoy their job and care about helping students make it ….are the ones who we do remember… Our son was hyperactive and easily lost concentration and had been evident in grades leading up to Grade 4… Then in grade 4 he got a teacher who happened to be a male one and he took time to help our son calm down after lunch and recesses… and it made all the difference… As it turned out he had him in Grade 5 also… Diane

    • one teacher really can make such a huge difference – one who takes the time to give that little bit of attention, who recognizes that everyone is different
      I liked that my sons had a mix of male and female teachers–they have different things to offer

  15. I was bullied myself during grades 1-8, but never had any help from anyone at the school to deal with it. I was simply told it would be something I had to learn to deal with. By high school the students had grown up and it stopped. As for teachers the one that taught me the most was my high school history teacher. I have carried lessons I learned from him through the rest of my life and in to the way I later home schooled my boys.

    • what is it with history and poli sci teachers–they seem to have gleaned a wider view of life from their studies and shared them with us in ways that we remember and affected us

      • I believe history is important, if you don’t know history you will continue to repeat the same mistakes, like our government is doing now. So a history teacher who loves his subject has, imo, a greater insight than many others

  16. Excellent tribute to teachers! On the baco of my car, I have a sticker that reads, ‘when you teach, you touch a life forever’ and that is evidenced again in your post and in the conversation that follows.
    I too was hurt by bullying and was saved by the intervention of a good teacher. It’s hard to understand why you have been singled out. Like you too, I cannot imagine and abhor the horrors of cyber bullying.
    Great article and great post. 🙂

    • I think many of us were made stronger by bullying but it was terrible at the time–and as someone pointed out, some did not survive their bullying and that is so sad that people can have such a negative effect on lives
      Teachers truly do have the power to make such a difference

  17. If you like P&P you might also like Slate’s Political Gabfest (it’s a podcast). Last week they were chatting about how September always feels like the real “start” of the year. 🙂

    • thanks for the info–will check it out — and I agree – September always feels like the start of a new year to me

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