My thoughts this August take me back to school. I become thankful for bus drivers, lunchroom crews, school administrators, students and all who are associated with the business of education—especially teachers.
Good teachers, who are capable communicators and have keen knowledge and great passion for their subjects, can pass on to their students insights and understanding that last far beyond a single semester.
When we think of teachers, often we only think of those who offer instruction in a school’s classroom. There are others, though, who also instruct us, and we should be thankful for those teachers, as well.
From the moment I was born, I began to learn. My parents were my first teachers who helped me understand this world.
I don’t remember learning to walk, but I suspect it came about because I saw my dad and mom getting around that way. I imagine they were there, reaching toward me, when I first wobbled upright.
I do remember learning to tie my shoes. Mom demonstrated how the laces should be looped and tied together. I gave it a try, and after several attempts of determined practice, I finally got the job done. That was good to learn; otherwise, I’d been limited to wearing boots and loafers and other shoes of the slip-on variety.
My dad didn’t teach me how to play a musical instrument, but he taught me to appreciate music. He simply shared a chair with me beside his old radio. This was during the early '50s before TV came to our living room. In the evenings, we would often listen to static and music being broadcast from Nashville. Sometimes, my dad would lay his hand atop the receiver and it would act as an antenna. That would somehow clear the static and enhance the music. From time to time, he made a few comments about the instruments or the singers or the lyrics, but mostly we just listened. There wasn’t much else to watch while the radio was playing, so I watched him. I could see the pleasure he experienced from the tunes. He seemed to enjoy quite a variety, from Roy Acuff to Frank Sinatra. I learned to appreciate them, as well.
Dad could be counted on for good entertainment before bedtime. Whether it was about Jonah and the Whale or Robinson Crusoe, he made a story come alive. Who needed a TV?
My mom was my first English teacher. She helped me learn the alphabet with letter blocks. She maneuvered those six-sided, wooden blocks in position to spell a word. Learning to spell “cat” seemed a big deal for me in those days before I was enrolled in a school. Then she read picture books aloud and placed her index finger under the words. I began to recognize what those letters were up to as they assembled into certain orders. Reading was some kind of special magic, I thought.
When Mom directed my attention toward blocks with numbers, I was not impressed. Oh, I learned 1 through 10, hoping that would satisfy her so we could get back to letters and words.
Perhaps that’s why all through my school years, I was more fascinated with English than math. It was in those English classes where letters became words and words became sentences and sentences became stories.
Aside from my parents and those teachers I met in classrooms, I was also taught by authors I only met through the pages of books.
John Steinbeck taught me much about the Great Depression. William Faulkner gave me insights concerning the Old South. Ernest Hemingway showed me how to fish in the Gulf streams.
As I think of those teachers this August, the list goes on and on. I’m thankful for all their instruction.