This morning, for some reason, I thought of my college English writing teacher, Professor Robert Lamm. He is one of only a very few teachers who actually had a big impact on my life. He made each of us in our class keep a journal that we had to write in every day. He did not care what we wrote about; he just wanted us to get in the practice of writing every day. I found that for me, if I wrote each entry as if I was writing it directly to him, I was more inspired to be creative in and committed to the process. Somehow in my writing the journal as if I were writing to him, he became “Teach” and that name stuck. We kept in touch off and on over the years, and he always remained Teach.
He was a true teacher in that he was really committed to having us use critical thinking skills. He did not mind being questioned and even challenged as long as it was well thought out. I would notice his frustration at the students who clearly were speaking from a place of whatever beliefs had been instilled in them from parents, religion, or cultural and societal norms without any real or deep thought process of their own.
I was so used to being the “outcast, the odd one, the bad one” in my family and in regular society that the few teachers who encouraged me to be myself and to explore what that meant to me left a lasting impression and Teach was one of them. Most of the other students in my class (and actually in the college and town) were very conservative religious and sadly, narrow-minded based on “group think” and very little exposure to the world outside of the small world they grew up in. They were the kind of students who would say something was “right” or “wrong” based on the Bible or just “because” without any deeper reasoning to back up their views.
Teach would have us debate on issues to try to get more depth of thought and reasoning out of the group. Once he had us debate if Playboy should be allowed to recruit women on college campuses. Most of the other students chose to debate on the side of “no.” Myself and a few other students chose to debate on the side of “yes.” I was the only woman in our group.
I remember how angry I felt that all the students who felt Playboy should not be allowed to recruit on college campuses were the exact same ones who were pro-military recruitment on college campuses. My voice raising as I said, “So it is not ok for a business to come to campus and offer women the opportunity to make very good money with a choice that is hers, but it is totally ok for the military to come and recruit people to potentially die or have to murder another human being because they will be forced to once they sign up?!?!!!!!!! People who don’t like Playboy, don’t have to buy it or look at it. But innocent people in other countries get murdered by the military all the time, and people risk losing their own life once they enlist. How in the hell can you back up your belief that the military is appropriate but Playboy isn’t?!?!?!!!!!! And as usual, there were very few thoughtful responses. It was mostly knee-jerk herd mentality responses.
All these many years later, as I reflect back on that class and Teach, I realize how debating and writing in that class was a piece of the puzzle that prepared me to be able to communicate with people so incredibly different from me. And it also fostered and nurtured in me creative and well thought through writing.
Teach used to tell me, I needed to do more with my writing and that someday I would be good at something with writing, maybe even writing a book. I laughed and told him something like, “Thanks but I don’t think that’s my path.” Now the laugh is on me. ; )
So in honor of Teach, I am going to try to start posting something on my blog every day. Sometimes it might be interesting; sometimes it probably won’t—that is the nature of writing every day.
Thank You Teach and all of the amazing teachers out there who foster young people’s unique gifts and voice and encourages them to use critical thinking skills and not just be robots that memorize and spit out information. Our world is a much better place because of these teachers, and we owe them a lot more than they are usually ever paid in money. Make sure and do something special for the special teachers in your lives or your children’s lives. Even a letter telling them how much they mean to you might mean a whole lot to them.