Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Dear Mrs. Herring,

You're probably dead, I know. You were old twenty years ago and the cigarettes were aging you exponentially even back then.

You were the coolest teacher I ever had. When they talk about "old broads" they mean you.

I remember how mad I was that you wouldn't put me into Honors English because I was new to the school and you didn't know anything about me. And I'm so glad the guidance counselor had the foresight to put me in your advanced English class so we could feel each other out.

I still remember the little glances that you would shoot me when you started to catch on to who I was. Even then, I believed in myself. I wouldn't pretend that I wasn't as good as I was at doing the two things I loved best: reading and writing. You nurtured that. You had me doing the honors work by the second week of school.

When you rearranged my schedule to move me into journalism without telling me, I was taken aback. But honored. Honored that you thought I could do it. I hope I did it. Even when I wrote that article about how everyone should wear denim jumpsuits to prom and half the school didn't realize it was a joke. Thanks for laughing.

I loved your stories of meeting and learning from Robert Frost and Allen Ginsburg. I was awed.

I hope you had a comfortable retirement. I hope you spent long days reading books and smoking, damn the consequences. I hope you know that because of you, I felt really seen, a minor light in a bright constellation, but a light nonetheless. My own light. A light you fueled.

Thanks for teaching, Mrs. Herring. We need more like you.


Melanie Bennett (Jacobson)


Kristina P. said...

I have the worst long term memory on the planet. The only teacher's name I can remember is the one I interned with for 4 years.

Andrew & Sarah Clawson said...

What a wonderful tribute! Made me cry and laugh. Needed to hear something uplifting today.

Karen Peterson said...

What a great letter. I have a very memorable teacher too and I think she's still teaching. I should probably track her down and say thanks in person.

Barbaloot said...

Possibly the best opening sentence to a letter ever. Thanks for that.

Also, could we maybe include the article about the prom jumpsuits? :)

Lara said...

Awesome. If she's dead, she's smiling in heaven right now.

And I want to read your article about wearing denim jumpsuits to prom.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Lovely post, Melanie. Teachers can wield such power in the lives of their students.

LisAway said...

I had one quite a lot like that. Mr. Talley, the one who read my papers out loud but tried not to let everyone know they were mine. I appreciated him not embarrassing me. I wasn't surprised when I suddenly found myself in honors English the next year without anyone having ever said anything to me about it. The year after that was my heavy drinking and smoking teacher, though. And MAN she knew her literature.

wendy said...

what a great tribute.
I loved all the words and emotions in the last paragraph.
We can only HOPE our kids have at least One teacher who "gets them".

damn consequences

Kazzy said...

Terrific. I often reflect back on some of my teachers. I hope people feel the same about me. That matters. A lot.

L.T. Elliot said...

I love this. I love that she saw you and you knew who you were. What a touching tribute.