Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Learning, Still

World Book Encyclopedia and  Encyclopedia Brittanica, do they even exist anymore in this browser driven world? They were the doorways into the Universe for my very questing young mind. Hours spent sitting on the floor, going from A to Z, just to learn, no, it was more like devour the content on the pages before me. Reading just for the fun of it about things that did not exist for me outside of my bedroom situated in a white house surrounded by cotton fields, corn fields, and cows plunked down in a part of Tornado Alley known as the panhandle of Texas. I am sure I drove the adults in my life crazy with my questions (which is probably one of the reasons there were two sets of encyclopedias in my room). I was lucky, in that I had some very good teachers to start my school years out, teachers that understood my need for answers that came best when I could look for them myself, giving directions when I got stuck, or pushing me to look beyond.
The year, for me, started not in January, but in September. The beginning of the school year was the most exciting time for me. The smells of books, fresh notebooks, pencils, glue, crayons still do it for me. I loved school. I loved school so much that when the Ice Capades came to Amarillo for one day in the middle of the school week, I wouldn't go. My parents dropped me off as they headed for the big show with my little sister and baby brother. The school was nearly empty as everyone had taken advantage of the excused absence policy for this once in a life time event. To this day, sitting in that third grade classroom on a rainy winter day having my all time favorite grade school teacher, Mrs. McCauley, nearly all to myself is one of my favorite memories.
Along the way there were more good and great teachers, and some that left a lot to be desired. But, because I had been fortunate enough to have such great experiences in learning with wonderful teachers early on, I knew that one bad teacher was just a bump in my road of learning.
I feel bad for most teachers now. They don't really get to teach the way that I was taught. I feel sorry for the kids that don't learn for the love of learning, but must be tested into hating school.
I could have easily become a professional student, but location and funding put an end to formal schooling after some college. I have sought out teachers for the other parts of my life. And, again, there are always some thorns among the roses. I never thought that I knew enough. I continued to search for more knowledge, more information, more experience. Then one day, someone came to me and asked if I could teach them. How could I do that? I was the student always looking for the next teacher. I can't possibly be expected to do this! Panic, doubt, insecurity, the big three hit me hard. They kept asking, I kept turning them down. I looked for someone else to teach them. They wouldn't go away. And, then I remembered something. I had been asked to substitute teach for an old high school teacher of mine that had become a close friend in later life. I had given him all the same excuses that I had just doled out to myself. When I told him I didn't have all the answers, he reminded me that it wasn't my job to have the answers. It was the job of the students to find the answers. All I had to do was ask them the right questions. Then, he said, "And Sharon, you always had great questions!"

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