Some Dreams We Share with the World
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to become a teacher. This dream was conceived unintentionally by observing an enthusiastic third grade teacher named Mrs. Waggoner. She didn’t prepare a lesson about careers. She didn’t ask us to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. She simply taught with joy.
Looking back I realize that my parents’ philosophy of child rearing -had they chosen to write it down- would have read like this: “Do your chores and then go play.” I had no complaints about that style of parenting. I did my chores and then ran outside to play until the lightning bugs appeared. I loved being outdoors and enjoyed a large circle of neighborhood playmates.
But in third grade I discovered a teacher named Mrs. Waggoner. She was unlike any other adult I had ever encountered. What made her unique? She actually enjoyed playing with children. She would enter whatever game we had devised and laugh with us. Noise didn’t bother her. Messes didn’t annoy her. Instead of telling us to simply sit down and draw a picture during those long winter indoor recesses, she would have us push back all the desks and she taught us how to square dance. She’d holler out the square dance calls and dance with us, clapping as she skipped around the room. I was mesmerized by her and studied her like she was some kind of a science experiment.
Consequently it was when I was only eight that I decided I wanted to grow up and enter a profession in which I could find as much joy and fun as Mrs. Waggoner. I began to fashion child sized classrooms on the porch, or in the garage. That dream of becoming a teacher I made public and I rushed toward that goal as though racing along a zipline. By age twenty I was teaching third grade myself. Thank you, Mrs. Waggoner for revealing a career path I would love for decades.
The Secret Dream
But I also had a secret dream. Maybe you have one too. I wanted to become a writer. I can’t pinpoint when this dream was conceived within me. It wasn’t as clear-cut as meeting Mrs. Waggoner. I just knew I enjoyed writing stories for fun. I wrote stories for myself and sometimes shared them with my family. As a teenager, I wrote a collection of very mediocre poems that I kept hidden away. No one encouraged me in this dream. In fact, I rarely revealed this interest to anyone.
Why? Every time I wrote a story or an essay for an assignment I was given a grade of a B minus. B minus people don’t excel. B minus people need to look elsewhere to succeed. So I kept this interest tucked away in a private place. This dream percolated on the back burner, just below the surface of public admission for many years.
Ironically, it was once again a teacher who finally gave me “permission” to allow my writing dream to begin to grow. She wasn’t royalty, but her name was Miss Throne. Really.
She was my freshman composition professor at Miami University.
She issued a threat on the first day of class. She circumvented any effort at tact and told us that most of us would fail her class. We glanced at each other stunned. She pointed out that we weren’t in high school anymore. While we may have been making an ‘A’ in high school English, that didn’t impress her one iota. She was the Marine drill sergeant equivalent of a college English prof.
I had never seen an A for my high school writing efforts and I felt my already sagging confidence plummet. In fact she claimed that most of us would make an ‘F’ on our first writing assignment. Worse. All our writing would be done during class with the topic only provided on the day of the assignment. No opportunity to refine and improve would be granted.
It was a grim group of students who showed up for that first classroom writing assignment. She didn’t smile nor did we. She distributed our blank blue books and then chalked our essay title in giant letters on the blackboard.
I Am An Eccentric
Decades later I still remember that title and the fear. We wrote furiously until she ordered us to stop. The next class day was even more sullen as, sure enough, she began to hand back those blue books. I saw, F, F, D, D-, D- – . I even spotted an F- ! She wrote those grades in HUGE red pencil on the covers of the booklets. Public condemnation with no apologies.
What did my booklet say? She didn’t even return it to me. I said absolutely nothing. I figured she had ripped it to shreds in frustration. You could hear a fly sweat in that classroom. Silently Miss Throne made a throne of the desk in the front of the room as she perched on top of it and stared at us. No one said a word.
Then quietly she began to read to us orally. My essay. I slid down as far as possible in my seat. It was several minutes before I realized with astonishment that she liked it. I have never been more surprised or embarrassed by anything in my life…not even to this day. My grade? It was an A minus, minus. Miss Throne adored minuses. But the grade was no longer of any importance.
That was the day that I realized with stunning clarity that taste in good writing is subjective. That was the day that I knew that I would allow my writing dream to continue to percolate and grow. That was the day that I internalized that one day I would have the courage to write and make my words public. It didn’t happen quickly, but it did happen. First I became a teacher. But, now also, I had permission to write.
Please understand that as a teacher myself, I do not approve of Miss Throne’s methods. I don’t believe you get your best results from students through intimidation. I tell this story to prove another point. Miss Throne does not remember me. She doesn’t remember my name. She doesn’t remember that day. But notice the power one teacher had in my life, in one hour of one day. I no longer felt that I had to squelch my secret dream. That one day gave me the courage to write my first book. My third book Teach…To Change Lives will be available at Amazon.com soon. And Miss Throne is in it.
Never give up on a secret dream too soon.