Some of my most memorable moments in high school surround a teacher. Pretty strange, isn’t it? I remember her quite vividly – light brown complexion, almond eyes, wavy shoulder-length hair, radiant personality proportionately mixed with an aura of sternness. Mrs Clarke was a model teacher. She brought life to English Literature – a subject often labelled as dull and boring. She always found refreshing ways to engage us. We would view films based on the novels we were studying. And there was that time she had us memorize entire portions of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar so we could perform in class. She even made us mimic that southern drawl while reading Huckleberry Finn. I didn’t realize it at the time but she was my role model.
As much as she was creative with teaching strategies, that’s really not what stands out in my mind the most. What really touched me was the keen interest she took in her students. Everyone knew her to be a no-nonsense person but there was just something special about the way she was with us. One day, I happened to be walking past in the schoolyard when I suddenly caught her attention. She pulled me aside and demanded that I pull my socks up, literally! I was donning ankle socks which I had achieved by tucking them far down inside my shoes. To wear socks that way was against the school rules and she was not deterred by my pouting lips, folded arms or defiant glares. Hence, I was left no choice but to stoop and undo the fashion faux pas while she towered over me with a serious look on her face; expressing her disappointment that I was breaking the rule. Surprisingly, she didn’t stop there. She topped it off with words of encouragement and made me promise never to do it again. I don’t quite recall her exact words but I know it made quite a difference to me in the end.
After that encounter, I was resolute that she would never have to scold me again. I eagerly attended all her classes, listened attentively, participated in the lessons and completed all reading assignments; meeting all deadlines. Later that year, after sitting the end of year examinations, I received the highest score in my class. I was absent from school for one day but upon my return, I was eagerly filled-in by a classmate. Mrs. Clarke had read my essay to the entire class. I scored ninety-six percent and only because she deducted four points as a result of my failure to rule the margins she had requested (I told you she was stern! haha). The following year, I sat the Caribbean Secondary Examinations and came out among the top performances in English B (Literature) with a straight A profile. Of course, she was right there, arms wide, expressing how proud she was. It has been two decades since I had those experiences but they’re still etched in my mind until this day.
Little did I know that I would someday follow in her footsteps. Although I cannot say that I’m anywhere near the calibre of teacher she was, I am proud to have someone so upstanding that I can emulate. Teachers, you are sometimes the only source of inspiration that some children will ever see. Invest time and effort into your lessons but never forget the power of love and gentle redirection. Sometimes, what your students need most, in this moment, is not what is found in the curriculum. Teaching is more than a profession. It is a ministry. And, guess what? You can be a model teacher too. It’s really not a big secret, after all – simply put, just teach from the heart!
Do you have a teacher who has impacted your life in a positive way? Why not share it with us? Comment below or drop me a line here so we can publicly recognize the educators who have helped to shape our destiny!