For “Teach”

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.



Published in: on January 17, 2013 at 6:32 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. hi Julia,
    Best of luck with the daily discipline of writing! i always appreciate the honesty and variety of what you share. i know you’ve written lots before but wanted to share the following as it’s a nice reminder, plus might be of help to others reading this (certainly continues to help my writings). It has to do with writing fiction but could be applied or adapted however. It’s by Ray Bradbury and included in his wonderful book, Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You:

    “Dandelion Wine, like most of my books and stories, was a surprise. I began to learn the nature of such surprises, thank God, when I was fairly young as a writer. Before that, like every beginner, I thought you could beat, pummel, and thrash an idea into existence. Under such treatment, of course, any decent idea folds up its paws, turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity, and dies.

    It was with great relief, then, that in my early twenties I floundered into a word association process in which I simply got out of bed each morning, walked to my desk, and put down any word or series of words that happened along in my head.

    I would then take arms against the word, or for it, and bring on an assortment of characters to weigh the word and show me its meaning in my own life. An hour or two hours later, to my amazement, a new story would be finished and done. The surprise was total and lovely. I soon found that I would have to work this way for the rest of my life.”

  2. Great first entry and great comment/quote from Ray Bradbury. I too had just one or two teachers (maybe 3) in my entire 18 years of school who really saw me, recognized me, and encouraged me to be myself, to think critically, and to express myself honestly. And they accomplished this by somehow magically seeing through the shyness, the awkwardness, the childishness, the self-doubt and uncertainty that had me so mesmerized most of my young life (and adult life too). I can only imagine that these were people who sat squarely in their own sense of self-worth, who had done their own fair share of self-inquiry, and were unafraid to express themselves and so unafraid to encourage it in others. All the other uninspired and uninspiring teachers had probably never done the hard work of getting real with themselves, questioning their own assumptions, and so, unavailable mostly even to themselves, were certainly not very available to their students. Not many adults are really ‘adults’ is what I mean to say, but just experienced children, and experienced children don’t really have much to offer in the way of teaching.
    Good luck with your daily writing regimen. I look forward to reading more. XO

  3. Teach is the BESTest way to Learn! 🙂

  4. Thanks Paul!

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