Thursday, July 24, 2008

Influences that last

I have been thinking lately about a teacher who made a profound impact in my life. My sophomore English teacher in high school was a woman named Joann Hamm. I still feel her influence in my life.

The year she was my teacher it was her first at our school, and she was somewhat avant-garde in her approach. She had a huge display in her room that had "Thoughts for Thinkers" written across the top. Each month she would display a thought from someone there which we would discuss. But every day she had a section of the blackboard (yes, we had blackboards in those days!) that she had marked "Words of Wisdom" with a quote from a usually famous person. She required us to keep a notebook in which we would collect these quotations. At the beginning of each class session we would discuss the daily quote and what it meant. And believe me, even at that young age we had some pretty lively talks!

The other thing that she introduced me to was keeping a journal. She pounded into our heads over and over again that this was not a "diary" and that she wanted us to write about what we thought. Sometimes she would have us sit in a circle around her and she would try to get us to think outside of ourselves. At 15 the world pretty much revolves around yourself, so this was something to tackle. But she would sit quietly and say to us, "Just think, somewhere right now there is someone being born, someone is going to the bathroom, someone is eating dinner, someone is dying."

And we would think. And think and think, and soon we learned that we weren't the center of the universe. We learned there were different ways to look at things. And, in my case, I learned to love words. I love the power they have, how they can indeed make you think, how they can motivate you, comfort you, inspire you, help you to grow and learn. I love to read words, listen to words and to write words.

Ms. Hamm gave me a precious gift that year. I will forever be grateful to have had her as my teacher.

Do you have a teacher who impacted your life?

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