I was an awkward child. I mean, painfully awkward. See that picture? That’s me. In the middle. Going against the grain. As usual.
I never fit well in a crowd. Too many people make me nervous. I get asked to speak at conferences and appear on TV now and again and I do it, mostly because I’m flattered at being asked and I know I should do the social thing, but I am not a speaker at heart.
I’m a writer.
Which is exactly what I told my first grade teacher when she asked why I wasn’t participating in class. “Mrs. Jonas,” I said, “I don’t want to talk. I want to write stories. About a fish and a cat. And people in other places in the world.”
So we wrote. Mrs. Jonas never batted an eye at my inclination to skip recess and burrow through books and tear through pages. She’d occasionally write my initials on the board when I wasn’t paying attention. Initials on the board meant that we had to skip recess. I didn’t care, and she knew it, but there was a significance in seeing my name in chalk. It meant something to me and she understood that, guiding me gently through the obligatory parts of elementary life and letting me escape into my own stories for unimportant things.
Who cares about Christopher Columbus anyway?
I think, in a way, she knew that I didn’t get this quiet peace at home. She knew that the only time to myself was in that hard plastic chair and that what I needed, more than anything, was a pencil and paper and time to think. My sense of focus and determination started in that classroom.
There’s an art to looking at a child and seeing them, truly understanding what they need as opposed to copying and pasting your approach out of a textbook. Great teachers have it. Mrs. Jonas was a great teacher.
If you’ve known a great teacher, this season is a time to honor their work. Visit the Countless Possibilities through Education site and vote for a semi-finalist teacher-submitted video. The winning school/teacher will receive a $25,000 Grand Prize! You can also support the Countless Possibilities initiative by using the FedEx One Rate box now through December 23rd. For every One Rate transaction and every use of the #CountlessPossibilities hashtag on social media, FedEx will donate $1 to Teach for America. Send goodness AND donate goodness for one low price. Everybody wins. You could even use it to send goodies to one of your childhood teachers.
When I was a teacher, FedEx was a frequent stop on my list of office supply places because they were so supportive of education. FedEx Office even offers Educator Discount cards to TFA corps members so they can get print and copy services at a discount, lowering their out-of-pocket expenses for classroom materials. Those are possibilities I can get on board with.