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I was a school teacher for a while in Indiana. Why? People ask me that all the time. Part of my desire to teach came from positive experiences and part came from negative. Yesterday I was walking with the “D-Meister” and starting thinking about the why so I thought I would share this morning.
Why Scott became a teacher.
There are four people in the end who led me to education. One because it was the worst experience of my life and the other three because they showed me the world can be changed if you keep teaching. We will start with my negative experience because of two factors, it was the second event that shaped my desire to be a teach.
I entered first grade a not-so-willing student. I didn’t like the rules of school much and spent most of the next 12 years rebelling against those rules. Mrs. Brown my first grade teacher didn’t like students who didn’t like rules. She told my parents in the first parent teacher conferences of the year that every year she had a student like me, and frankly I would never learn to read. I learned that from my parents many years later. But at the time I was frustrated. I didn’t understand why Mrs. Brown didn’t like me. I was a very active kid, and I learned by asking questions, asking questions about everything. She didn’t like that in me. So I struggled for a year.
The first positive story of my education was begun that winter. My father spent hours with me teaching me how to read. To this day I love anything by Dr. Seuss. Why? Because those are the books my father used. Was I an incorrigible kid? Probably not. I had too many questions and my dad answered all of them, over and over. By the end of second grade I went form the lowest reading group in the grade to the highest reading group. My dad was my first educational influence and he saved me from the painful reality of Mrs. Brown. For those who don’t know my father was a teacher for more than 40 years. I remember many years ago a survey done at Indiana University where they asked students which teachers they remembered, my father along with Doc Councilmen (the swimming coach of Mark Spitz and others at IU) made that list. It shows how amazing a teacher he was. Or maybe my being able to read shows that who knows.
The second positive influence came at a juncture in my life when I was struggling again. I of course as a teenager had distanced myself from my parents – as many teenagers do. I stumbled into an English classroom as a sophomore in high school at Bloomington High School South. For the next two years I would have this teacher for a total of 3 nine week periods. William “Bill” Sturbaum introduced us to the world beyond simply reading. He introduced me to the love of literature. The love of anything by Jean Shepard. He taught us to wait for the moments in great works to relish in the thoughts those moments produced. He taught to look beyond the words and find our own meaning. He never yelled at us when we were rowdy teenagers, but then again we weren’t very often. He controlled the room with kindness and opening doors we didn’t know were there.
The last positive influence in my life came while I was in college. This person, like my father influenced me my entire life but there was one moment of crystallization that he provided that changes everything for me. I was going to be a writer. To life like Hemingway, or Steinbeck and within the pages and words change the world. My Grandfather said to me “have a fall back plan.” If anyone else had told me that I would have told them to pound sand. But my grandfather had left college because his family had no fall-back plan. He was the fallback plan. He wanted me to make sure I could be the person I wanted to be. Much as my father did as he taught me Dr. Seuss.
I became a teacher because of those four people. I believe in education because of the last three.