Monday, March 21, 2016

Thinking Back

So I dedicated this book last week. It was my seventeenth in the non-fiction culture series, and I was seriously running out of family members. They had become completely blasé about my heart-felt declarations of love and inspiration. 

I do try to match the interest of the book to the dedication where I can.  The first four books of my new series were both chosen and picked for each of my grandchildren, who are my little muses. 

However, Egypt stared back at me in all its ancient wonder and I reached back into my own past to come up with a person worthy to be acknowledged by this beautiful book. I may have not had to go back ten thousand years, but opted for almost five decades instead. 

I started Springfield Gardens High School in the fall of 1968, forty-eight years ago. 

I was a shy, almost invisible teenager. Gawky and awkward, I had one friend and didn't fit in with any of the groups. Despite ten years of dance, the jocks didn't like be because I didn't possess their notion of dexterity or coolness. I made honor role, but sadly lived on the wrong side of town, so the the Arista students didn't include me in their scholarly group. There were other cliques I didn't hang out with as our interests and hobbies were vastly different. 

I wanted to be an actress, despite having my parents lecture me that I was lucky to be going to college and should think in terms of either nursing, teaching, or bookkeeping. I was not impressed with any of them, and quite annoyed that my brothers were given more exciting choices like being business owners, dentists, or lawyers. I don't blame my parents; it was a different era. Girls were encouraged to become one of those three things. I remember my best friend saying how lucky I was that they even considered college. Her parents said only her brother could go; she was pushed to get a job. She asked me to convince them that she should at least be given the same chance. I argued with them for her to allow her to go. They gave in eventually, but I don't think she finished. We lost touch after graduation.

Getting back to my dedication. I entered high school after three miserable years of junior high. I loathed school,and felt uncomfortable in my own skin. That is, until I entered  World History and Mr. Thomas Sena's sixth-grade class. I remember the very first lesson. He drew a picture of a Mercator map, flattening the image of a round globe, and opening up a whole new world to me. 

It was evident he loved to teach. That he made each lesson fun and interesting is besides the fact. He made history come alive. I couldn't wait to go to class and tell him what I learned. How each age of history leads into the next, and that when one thing happens it affects the entire world, impacting lives in an ever widening circle until it touched mine. 

He didn't just affect me, but hundreds of kids fought to get into his classes. He was the most popular teacher, not because he was cool, but because he made learning cool.  I couldn't wait to learn, to see his worksheets, take his lesson and find a way to make it apply to my life. It was as if the world and its past was a giant puzzle that took shape before my eyes and when the "ah-ha" moment came, it all made perfect sense to me. I watched him be a rock star with the dawning understanding that teaching was so much more than a job. It was really important.

I realized then that teaching was more glamorous then being a famous actress.It could be more rewarding that a million-dollar business.  Watching and affecting young minds, realizing that your words have a lasting impact that could change the course of hundreds of lives, suddenly meant so much more than settling someone's divorce. Let another person do that, I thought. I knew what I was meant to do- I wanted to be a teacher. 

I finished school got my teaching degree and taught for about an hour. Sadly, jobs were hard to come by and I ended up helping my husband grow our business and family, which turned out to be a pretty great thing too. But teaching never leaves, and here I am, almost a lifetime later, embracing my culture books and trying to do what someone did for me. I have choice and could write about anything. This is what I choose, because I think it's important.

Teachers are the unsung heroes of our youth. The sculptors of pliable minds, that have the power to touch the pulse of intellect and get it racing toward accomplishment and success. If I have any success today, and I will admit without ego that I do, it was because of the patience and zeal of a high school teacher who made both his lessons and my life count. I am proud to pay it forward. 

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