If I asked you to name a teacher who influenced your life, immediately a face and a name would pop into your mind. It may be a smiling one, or maybe not. Despite the feelings you get, the fact is true, teachers have a lasting effect on our lives.
I can tell you the grade, the room, and the exact seat I sat in when our principal embarrassed the life out of me. He was passing out awards for a candy sale. I must have not been paying attention, because when he called my name, I looked up a split second too late. There, sailing toward my forehead, was a chocolate scented frisbee. It nailed me between the eyes, and after 25 years, I can still hear the ‘dong’ it made as it bounced off and landed on the floor (and the sound of everyone in the room laughing!). Thanks, Dad. I will never let you live that one down (Truly, it was my dad. He was my principal.) Of course I should point out that my dad did make more of a lasting impression on my life as a teacher than only the impression he left in my forehead, but this memory is one that will always stand out!
Anyway, moving on…I was going through a file of old papers I had written for my college English 112 class, when I ran across one that I’d written about a teacher who influenced my writing more than any other. After reading the paper, it made me excited about literature and writing all over again. She was just that kind of teacher. I had to share her with all of you. Hope you had one of these, too:
When Words Set Sail
by Bethany Lawson
I observed her as she taught. Experience flecked her hair with tints of sliver. Adjectives fluttered from her eyelashes. And as she exhaled all knowledge of literature, I inhaled deeply, hating to ever breathe out again.
She was my high school English teacher. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 9:30 in the morning, I entered a classroom where my opinion mattered. This was a classroom where my views and ideas, as well as those of my classmates, were valued and embraced.
But I had a great deal to learn before I could sit back and enjoy the class.
After my junior year of high school, I considered myself a ‘proficient’ writer. But upon entering English Composition and Literature Class at the beginning of my senior year, I realized how mistaken I really was. To be proficient at writing, one must be able to write in many different styles. I had mastered only on style, creative writing, and I saw no reason to contaminate my healthy, expressive mind with viruses of expository and persuasive writing. My English teacher, on the other hand, saw things a little differently. She let me know that “…flowery words and towers of adjectives are wonderful, and I love writing them too, but…” (I knew when she added this conjunction that my creative nature was in for a severe famine.) “…we must work with other styles of writing also. To have flowery words, we must first start with a plain straight stem, and to build towers of adjectives, we must begin with a dull, but firm foundation.”
I almost choked. This type of writing made me feel strangled, as if my fanciful side were gasping for air.
We began with simple informative essays, and when I became frustrated and wanted to “brighten up” the facts, my teacher would only tighten her grip, letting only the facts squeeze out. In due time, we moved on to persuasive writing. I still struggled, but I was beginning to get the hang of stating only the facts. Finally, it was time for our last assignment with expository writing. We were to finish up the whole horrible unit with a term paper. In planning for my term paper, my creative fairies began flitting into my sentences, creating a space for themselves between my verbs and nouns. Again, my teacher would cork my bottle of fairy dust, net the fairies, and push my verbs and nouns back into place.
We fought many battles that semester, but she always won. And even though expository writing will never come naturally to me, I feel that she has helped me greatly.
The first semester was over, and what lay ahead seemed like an oasis: creative writing and literary classics. To say these two words was like heaving a sigh. Life was beginning; let the fairies fly!
We did many creative writing assignments, and my soul silently thanked her. Then it was time for the literary classics.
I think it was the way she gave life to literature, causing it to walk and breathe, that made me love her so. When she opened her book and began to teach, all reality melted away. As she taught Shakespeare’s Macbeth, I found myself staring down into a witch’s cauldron, cackling curses for the Thane of Glamis, “Bubble, Bubble toil and trouble…”.
A few moments passed and she spoke the last name “Poe.” A raven dove past my head causing me to scream out, “Nevermore!”, as the “…bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells…” tolled out my fate.
Then her voice became soft and rhythmic as the poems of Robert Frost led me down roads not taken, and Longfellow reminded me that “into each life some rain must fall.”
Our time together was waning. She pulled up the anchors and put my hands on the ship’s wheel. And as we sailed over the ocean, I found myself declaring to Ol’ Moby Dick and the boisterous wind, “Call me Ishmael!”
After we ventured the high seas, my teacher gave me the compass. I steered toward the east. And as the morning sun illuminated the ocean waves, I echoed e.e. cummings as up I lifted with praise my voice, “i thank you God for most this amazing.”
Yeah, she was a decent teacher
(This teacher, the one from whom I learned so much, the one who fed my soul like none other was Vicki Lawson, my mother. Love you, Mom.)
Quick Novel Update: I’ve finished all of the edits and just sent my completed manuscript back to my editor/publisher. I ran into a few hiccups with editing (took a little longer than I thought).
Anyway, my “Acknowledgements” page is due on Monday the 19th and then it should be going to publication! Can’t wait! It will be available through Amazon.com in paperback and will be available for your Kindle. My website should be up and running by November 1st. When it’s up, I’ll send everyone the link. You’ll be able to order the book through my website, or we will be having a “Launch Party” on Facebook at the end of November. There will be many different ways to get a hold of A Light in Bailey’s Harbor!