I wonder if teachers realize the impact they have on some of their students. Sometimes it might be the attention they give or simply the words of encouragement passed on. I’ve had many teachers of positive influence and a few negative teacher experiences as well. However, I have had two teachers in my years of schooling that have greatly impacted my life. It’s not that I’ve made life-altering decisions based on their advice. They are people who took the time to encourage me. I’m sure I never lived up to their dreams of anticipated potential, but still I’ve carried them in my heart, and embedded them deep into the recesses of my soul when I pull out the one true constant love of my life…writing.
Yes, I wish they’d been more forceful in pushing me into college or to the guidance counselor to figure out a way to pay for college…but then again they were not mind readers, and I never let on that writing was my dream. And yes, it was a far off dream. Not that I look for fame or fortune in it, but alas, I have come back to the calling of my soul. And then again, if I had pursued it back then, maybe my love for it would have vanished in the wind. Now, it is something I do when I have time. It is a passion, a fire in my soul. I live it. I breathe it. But I never write on demand. I must feel it to put it on paper or the computer screen. It is something that comes from deep inside me. It is not merely an act. It is an emotion, an art. And I have two women I thank for nurturing this passion.
The woman who introduced me to the love of my life, poetry, was an elementary school teacher, Betty Hunter. To us (student), Betty exemplified beauty, adventure, and excitement. After all, she’d been to Africa with the Peace Corps. She could play guitar and sing. (And she had the most beautiful wavy black hair I’d ever seen.) With her wardrobe of straight Levis and earth shoes to her granny skirts and espadrilles, we thought she was the coolest, most fashionable woman to step foot in our small town. We soaked in everything we could about her. We thought she was the ticket to the wisdom of the world we had yet to encounter. We figured if we could be like her we’d be ready for that first big gust of opportunity when we grew up. She gave me the gift of words. She showed our elementary class that any of us could be poets. She taught us the simple formula of cinquain and sent us soaring into worlds unknown. I’ll bet that if you asked a single person from my fourth or fifth grade class about cinquains, they’d smile and be able to repeat the formula for you.
During the summer months, Betty took it a step farther and escorted me to the library in a neighboring town to select books on poetry. I could go on and on about the ways she influenced me. I carry her gypsy spirit in my soul and the words in my heart. What is better than her influence on me is to find that she was an inspiration to many back in those years and in many years to come. I must say that is the true mark of an excellent educator, one who teaches from the heart.
The teacher who influenced me in later years was a high school English teacher, Mrs. Knight. She encouraged my fiction writing. She pushed me to read beyond my class work, and to write as if my life depended on it. Being a teenager of angst, my life probably did depend on it at times. She taught me to weave real emotion into words of fiction. She exemplified a level of comfort of which I dreamed to someday claim as my own. Esther became the calm in my storm. I wanted a life of peace and compassion like I perceived her life to be. It wasn’t the many aspects of her life and career that I wanted as my own. It was the beauty of the person I saw her to be inside that I wished to emulate Esther also teaches with love and leads yet another generation of youth. I am proud to say that I was one of her first and that she is still influencing youth today in a positive way.
I’ve kept in touch and even visited in person with both of these teachers throughout the years. I am now forty-seven. Ms. Hunter taught 4-6 grades, and Mrs. Knight taught 10-12 grades. Yes, I was fortunate to have them for classes or club leaders for three years each. You do the math for the span of our friendship.
Needless to say, I never became a famous writer. I’ve delved in and out of writing for years. The love of it has never left me. I also never became a teacher, though I do work with children. Yes, the children are our future. And while I mostly seem to live a peaceful and compassionate life, a gypsy wind flairs up in my world every now and then. I think on occasion that gypsy rides the winds deep inside me and settles into my writing. I think I’ve found the perfect balance of adventure and stability that works well for me. Just by being themselves and being involved in my life at crucial times. They inspired my love of weaving words.
I am fortunate to have had such positive influences on my life and people who’ve inspired a desire to pick back up something I once held dear in my life. From the bottom of my heart, I thank them both. And to any of you teachers out there, you mean more to some of these children than you will ever know. You might possibly be the only encouragement in their lives, the only flicker of hope…and they will remember and thank you for the rest of their lives.
There are several forms of Cinquain. The easiest and the one I was taught is with 5-lines following one (title), two (explanation of title or two adjectives), three (action or -ing words), four (emotion or a phrase) and one word (relating to the title) pattern. A few years ago Betty confessed to me that she found out many years later that she’d taught us the wrong formula. The correct formula was not at all what mattered…what matters if that she gifted each and every one of us with confidence to write.
Two examples of Cinquains:
Running, jumping, licking
Living with no inhibitions
Searching, dreaming, wandering
Finding a peaceful road