Thursday, September 24, 2009

Molding Me.

Here's something:

I decided to become a teacher when I was in high school, and two teachers in particular sparked this fire for me. One of these was Mr. Chapman, my junior English teacher. His class was not extraordinary in content in any way (it was a college prep English class with a mixed group of ability levels), but I remember watching him talk about To Kill a Mockingbird one day and thinking to myself, “This looks like a fun job.” I really admired the way he tried to convey his passion and love for this novel, and he did it with great humor. He was very dry in his humor, and only about three of us in class laughed at his jokes (or got his jokes), but I laughed so often. Anyway, I decided that day to be an English teacher. Thanks, Mr. Chapman.

Another enormously influential teacher in my life was Mr. Shank, my freshman biology teacher. His was the first class that ever really challenged me to think and to challenge assumptions. His class was very hard, but I loved it. We got to design our own experiments, and I spent countless hours after school working in the lab. I felt that he respected me not only as a smart student, but also as a person. He gave me the freedom to formulate ideas, and allowed me the freedom to learn from setbacks. But he also never stopped telling me how much he respected me for marching to my own beat in small town Indiana. After freshman year was over, I visited Mr. Shank at least once a week to chat, and he always encouraged me. He would tell me, in his dry way, “Your hair is weird, John, but I love that you do that.”

At the end of my senior year, my school had an awesome banquet at which the top twenty students in the class honored their favorite teachers from the whole K-12 district. This was a wonderful opportunity to tell our teachers what they meant to us before we headed off to college. I am so grateful that I got to tell Mr. Shank what a significant impact he had made on my life, especially grateful because he died of a heart attack during my sophomore year in college. Of course I grieved the loss of this important mentor, but I knew that he would live on. By then I was already taking my education classes, well on my way to becoming a teacher, and Mr. Shank entered my thoughts frequently as I was figuring out what kind of teacher I would become. He still enters my thoughts, and I hope that part of what he taught me shines through in my teaching.


At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Jake Carson posited...

Well... I think maybe this is the perfect opportunity to mention what a significant impact I felt you made on my life as a role model and teacher.

I loved the one lit class I had with you. You made the material both fun and relevant for all the students. You got students involved in discussion. It was fantastic.

You also did such a fun job of putting together and directing the shows for the drama club. I really enjoyed performing in them.

But beyond your teaching methods... I just felt able to identify with you as a person more than I had any other teacher. Between interests in music and television and life in general... I never really had another teacher where I could have an enjoyable conversation about pop culture. In many ways... you made me feel like you were a friend I could talk to about whatever.

Also, as a gay teen who was in the closet... I clearly remember in the first day of your class. A fellow student used the word "fag" as an insult, and you immediately ripped him a new one in front of the entire class. I admired your ability to stand up for what you believe with such conviction rather than let that kind of stuff go unchallenged. And it was one of the first moments where I felt like I shouldn't be ashamed of being gay.

So thanks Dub! I really appreciated having you as a teacher/mentor in high school.

At 8:30 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

Thanks, Jake. Your comment means a lot to me, more than you could know. Thanks for posting it.


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