Another Day in the Country
Taking a hand
and opening a mind
© Another Day in the Country
Even though school is out, I’ve been thinking about teachers and how they impact our lives.
I don’t know how many of us have the chance or take the opportunity to thank the folks who taught us important skills, but today I want you to think about teachers who impacted your life.
Do you remember their names? I remember the names of a few of them, like Mr. Brown, my 5th grade teacher in Great Bend.
It was the first time I’d had a male teacher, and he was the nicest man.
It also was my first time hearing about the Greeks and their mythical gods.
He told us about the Parthenon and had us bring bars of Ivory soap to class so each of us could carve a replica of that beautiful structure.
It was the first time I realized I had an artistic bent. My sculpture was pretty good!
We took our art pieces home. That piece of soap never was used for its intended purpose.
In high school, Mrs. Nesmith, a short, squat, older lady in a girdle and old-fashioned laced, chunky-heeled shoes, taught typing.
In later life, I’ve deemed this one of the most important skills I acquired — even though at this very minute I am typing my column by pecking on a minuscule keyboard on my phone with one finger.
Especially for a writer, to be able to put your thoughts on paper almost as fast as you conjure them in your mind is a wonderful, magical thing.
Yesterday, I had lunch with a couple of friends I hadn’t seen for months. Brian told me about a high school teacher who impacted his life by teaching about the Great Depression of the 1930s.
All of the students were randomly assigned occupations and given the same amount of cash to use as they chose. Their grade in class would be determined by how much cash they accumulated by the end of the exercise.
Brian just happened to be a banker and happily set about earning money, feeling pretty smug about how much he was accumulating.
Then one afternoon, the teacher shut the whole experiment down by announcing the stock market plunged, banks closed, and Brian lost all his money.
All except a couple of kids in class had lost their money. They were getting F’s and went home for the weekend devastated.
On Monday morning, the teacher told them they could redeem their grade by writing a paper about the experience.
“So, do you invest in the stock market now?” I asked.
“Yes, I have for years,” Brian said, grinning, “but very carefully.”
Another teacher who changed my life was Merrit Esmiol, who taught a community art class for adults in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
I was in my 20s when I encountered him, and he introduced me to the wide world of artistic expression.
Recently, my teenage grandson has been my teacher. I’m amazed at his patience and his skill level.
I’m learning what I would call “some silly video game” called Pode. The two of us go on an adventure, acquiring different skills as we figure out puzzles, jump obstacles, and make our world beautiful in the process.
If you think about it, it is kind of like an ideal life!
He, with his agile thumbs and pianist fingers, is very fast and skillful with the switches and buttons on the controls. I am not.
When I jump from one pedestal to another, I jerk and strain with my whole body.
I yelp when I fall and grumble in frustration, but I’m determined to learn to do this.
My teacher is infinitely patient and encouraging.
“That’s good,” he says. “Come on, you can do this. Do you remember how to teleport?”
When I’m exhausted and discouraged, he says, “Press the Z button, Baba, and hold my hand.”
My little circle figure holds hands with his little square cube, and he helps me jump the chasm.
Later on, I discover he could have controlled my figure all along and done the work for me, but he let me struggle and learn until I was physically exhausted and then stepped in and took us both to the finish line, ready for the next challenge.
That’s what teachers do, every day, all across the country. Blessings on the lot of you!
Have a good summer, which of course, will be better if you are lucky enough to be spending another day in the country.