More years ago than I plan to say just now, I met someone who changed my life. No, not my husband. I'll admit to that duration--married 23 years. No, not God, though that was certainly the mother of all changes. Not surprising to a lot of people, that person was a teacher. in fact, a number of teachers have changed me, and to those people belong "National Seeds of Greatness Day." Second to parents, no one other than a teacher plays such a foundational role in recognizing, nurturing, and encouraging the seeds of greatness in a child. Theirs is a position filled with both promise and danger--as is any such place of power. National Seeds of Greatness Day belongs to teacher like:
--The junior high band teacher who told me the last day he ever saw me, "Thanks for being an incredible person." He had no idea that very night I had been badly crushed by disappointed hopes, and so he could have no idea how much those parting words lifted my bruised soul and helped me believe in me again. I was thirteen--that's how long six words can stay with a person.
--The fifth grade team teacher who, despite my open dislike, continued to be kind to me, smile at me, and include me, even when I told her I hated being read to and would rather sit in a corner myself and read something "less childish." I was a little intellectual snob in fifth grade. Wait . . . I was a little intellectual snob for . . . a while after that. From her I learned to be kind to anyone in my path, because I couldn't know what hid behind abrasiveness or that aloof-looking turn of the eye.
--The debate coach who gently suppressed my poor sportsmanship tendencies and effusively congratulated my victories. It requires a pretty talented person to take a blood sport like debate and make it compassionate while retaining the competitive edge.
But for that teacher, would I have had the courage to pursue public speaking and writing for a career? Without that teacher, would I have become a high school teacher myself, if only for a short while, trying to bring that kind of buoyancy to other drifting teenagers? And, would I have had the courage to face the next four years of college alone?
Because that same teacher is the woman who pretty much singlehandedly took an insecure fourteen-year-old and helped her become a confident speaker and, more importantly, confident person. She's also the teacher who held me and let me be that insecure little girl again when I lost my mom senior year. Where is that in the contract?
There are a lot of things wrong with our school systems. (And sometimes, parents, it's our fault.) Sadly, my own kids have had teachers I would never put on a list of caring professionals. (These have been exclusively at the high school level. Even sadder, perhaps. I don't think there's a population more lost.) But others have been Master Gardeners of young souls. And I am grateful for them. They have no idea, while watering the seed, what that plant will turn into. Yet every day, they believe in the seeds.