More years ago than I plan to say just now, I met someone who changed my life. No, not my husband. I’ll admit to that duration–married 23 years. No, not God, though that was certainly the mother of all changes. Not surprising to a lot of people, that person was a teacher. in fact, a number of teachers have changed me, and to those people belong “National Seeds of Greatness Day.” Second to parents, no one other than a teacher plays such a foundational role in recognizing, nurturing, and encouraging the seeds of greatness in a child. Theirs is a position filled with both promise and danger–as is any such place of power. National Seeds of Greatness Day belongs to teacher like:
–The junior high band teacher who told me the last day he ever saw me, “Thanks for being an incredible person.” He had no idea that very night I had been badly crushed by disappointed hopes, and so he could have no idea how much those parting words lifted my bruised soul and helped me believe in me again. I was thirteen–that’s how long six words can stay with a person.
–The fifth grade team teacher who, despite my open dislike, continued to be kind to me, smile at me, and include me, even when I told her I hated being read to and would rather sit in a corner myself and read something “less childish.” I was a little intellectual snob in fifth grade. Wait . . . I was a little intellectual snob for . . . a while after that. From her I learned to be kind to anyone in my path, because I couldn’t know what hid behind abrasiveness or that aloof-looking turn of the eye.
–The debate coach who gently suppressed my poor sportsmanship tendencies and effusively congratulated my victories. It requires a pretty talented person to take a blood sport like debate and make it compassionate while retaining the competitive edge.
But for that teacher, would I have had the courage to pursue public speaking and writing for a career? Without that teacher, would I have become a high school teacher myself, if only for a short while, trying to bring that kind of buoyancy to other drifting teenagers? And, would I have had the courage to face the next four years of college alone?
Because that same teacher is the woman who pretty much singlehandedly took an insecure fourteen-year-old and helped her become a confident speaker and, more importantly, confident person. She’s also the teacher who held me and let me be that insecure little girl again when I lost my mom senior year. Where is that in the contract?
There are a lot of things wrong with our school systems. (And sometimes, parents, it’s our fault.) Sadly, my own kids have had teachers I would never put on a list of caring professionals. (These have been exclusively at the high school level. Even sadder, perhaps. I don’t think there’s a population more lost.) But others have been Master Gardeners of young souls. And I am grateful for them. They have no idea, while watering the seed, what that plant will turn into. Yet every day, they believe in the seeds.