This was a first for me. Other than keep in direct touch with our band teacher (The Band Teacher From Whom All Things Good In High School Flow) for a number of years, all the others tended to fall by the wayside of contacts over the years: moving away, college, getting a degree, finding a job, children - and then moving very far away indeed.
It is for situations like this that (even I am forced to admit)Facebook is admirably suited. Suddenly last year, a friend request pops up from a someone that you literally have not spoken to in almost 30 years.
What constitutes a memorable teacher? In my day (I am old enough to say that now) we did not have a great pool of teachers - maybe fifty - and of those, less band of course, I could have possibly had a total of twenty. Of these twenty there are two that I can look back on and say had impacts that continue to resonate through my life to this Day: Mr. Q (The Band Teacher From Whom All Things Good In High School Flow) and Mr. D.
To analyze my relationship with Mr. D looking back, one would be hard pressed to say that it was something that should have had such impacts. He was my geometry and trigonometry teacher - subjects which I did okay in during high school but met only my minimum requirement for in college to get me degree (I am still not a fan). I TA'ed for him as well.
Math, one would think, is not the sort of thing that one would receive life changing lessons from: theorems are still theorems and triangles have not changed since the days of Pythagoras. And the time frame - one period a day for three years - is not the sort of time that one expects any sort of mentoring to occur. So why the impact?
Because Mr. D cared. He cared in two ways. He cared about my performance - when I was having trouble in class and it was due to my inability to focus (pretty much due to the fact I had rather focus on the pretty girl next to me) it was Mr. D that got my attention by sending me out of clas (the only time that ever happened) and having a meeting with my mother concerning the fact that he thought I could pass, but I needed to focus. Funny enough, he got his message across. I dedicated myself to passing that class - put away the distractions of my life and worked hard. As I recall, I got a B - not great, but far better than I could have done without his intervention. If I sit and think about it, I can trace most of my sense that I have the ability to do what I set my mind to from this experience.
The second way was in what he thought of my future - far better than I thought of it myself. For one of my college applications (one I did not ultimately end up going to) he wrote that while he believed I was capable of doing well he would be sorry to see me go so far away, as he would like to see my growth through the years. Of all my recommendations, his is the only one that I still recall. And his is the one that has stuck with me all these years: the belief that my life would be something worth following.
The lunch was great; catching up was that sort of experience that one can only hope for when seeing someone after a long time: no sense of time dragging or wandering into areas that someone else does not care about. It was a good experience, one I have an excuse to recreate the next time I am in town - after I collect a new set of adventures, of course.
I look at my own children now, as I try to infuse in them the sense that they can do anything that they want to and put their mind to and that they can have lives which are worth following to themselves and others - because somewhere back in my own misty past, a teacher took the time to look through the tangles of formulas and shapes on a board and do a little bit extra.
Thanks Mr. D. The next round is on me.