Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Great Teachers

With the school year beginning ~ and around here, the school parking lots were filled with teachers' cars yesterday, and the buses are rolling this morning ~ Paul Campbell, S.J. at People for Others asks to hear about the teachers who've made a significant impact on our lives.  I so enjoyed the opportunity to give that question some thought late last night after the sadness of yesterday that had begun at 5:45 a.m. and, of course, continues, that I thought I'd post my response.  

It occurred to me as I looked at it again this morning that every one of these teachers continues to influence my life nearly every day.  If I am thinking about freedom and grace as I take note of an unexpected bird passing through during the fall migration, that's because of great teachers.  I am reminded of Sir Thomas More's response to the soon-to-be utterly corrupted Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons, when Rich asks who would even know about him if he abandoned his efforts to exert influence at court and became a teacher instead: 

"You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that."

Mine, per last night:

Mr. Curran, our sixth grade teacher, who brought labs and the excitement of biology to a small rural school with no science requirements and fewer resources.

Miss Palmer, our 11th grade (girls’ school) English teacher, who taught us to write, and insisted that we expand our exclamatory oral vocabulary beyond four-letter words.

Mr. Smalley, my 12th grade religion teacher, who handed us Freud and Bonhoeffer and Tillich, and tried to nudge us out of our comfort zones.

And in my adult life:

Harvey Webster of our Museum of Natural History, who let me volunteer and taught me about birds.

Howard Gray, S.J, who taught me all kinds of things Ignatian, in class and through the Exercises and beyond.

Edwin van Driel, who taught theology in seminary and introduced me to Volf and Hauerwas and patiently tutored me through Dun Scotus (the latter with less than dazzling results, I should admit).

And most especially my children, who taught me to see the world in all kinds of ways I never would have imagined without them.

What about you?  Who have been the teachers who've changed your life?


  1. Robin

    Like you I am a graduate of a boarding school. A little one in Asheville NC. Started in 1900 by a couple of men from Cleveland. So I do always enjoy both your boarding school stories and your NC pictures. It's hard to explain the boarding school experience to one who did not go through it.

    In 2011 I had the privilege of preaching in the Chapel at our 35th reunion. It was a chance to honor some of our now deceased teachers. Once again I give thanks for those teachers.


    1. I know that school, from our searches for our own kids!

    2. I thought you might know of it.

      By the way you even though we have never met you have been my teacher the last few years.

      Example: Based on a blog post of yours the phrase "I can't imagine..." is no longer part of my pastoral vocabulary.

  2. Robin, I would agree that I have learned a great deal from you and I appreciate your sharing your wisdom.

  3. Blessed to have many as well. Jr High bio dude who MADE us watch birds, would surely be on the list.