Sometimes ideas for essays find me instead of making me find them. It happened to me again tonight. I have been posting a lot of liberal political gook on Facebook lately to see how many of my conservative friends will shoot me a mad-faced “like” or write a comment about how stupid and blind and ignorant I am (with the word ignorant misspelled). One angry face came from Ronald Broccoli (not his real name because I don’t do that to students). I thought I knew who that was. But I just couldn’t place the name. Then he messaged me on Facebook chat asking if I didn’t remember him from Creek Valley Middle School. He was an eighth grader in my English class during the worst year I ever endured as a teacher. That was the year I had all the worst kids available in the whole school so that the other English teacher on our team could have only good ones. I had all the emotionally disturbed kids, the low socio-economic-level kids, the kids with discipline files thicker than Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. It was the year that my diabetes kept depleting my blood sugar to the point that I couldn’t remember my own name by the afternoon. I even got lost one afternoon and found myself in Lewisville, the next city over, by mistake, completely lost, but in a restaurant and needing to eat, with absolutely no money on me anywhere. But Ronny was not one of the bad kids. (In fact, there were truly no bad kids in my classes, just kids with expectations totally stacked against them. I was just in very poor shape to deal with them.) He told me on Facebook that though I was only his teacher for a very short time, I had a big impact on him and his confidence in himself, and that he would never forget me. If you want to know the truth, he made me cry. Not tears of unhappiness… tears of joy. Even if you are lying, if you say something like that to one of your former teachers, you are going to make him or her cry.
This video of Miss Watson is also something that I encountered on Facebook. I should warn you. If you watch it, she cries in the video, and you will probably cry too if you don’t remove your heart and hide it safely in your sock drawer first.
I had a wonderful teacher once too. Her name was Mrs. Houser (That is her real name, because I won’t embarrass her… but I need everybody to know she was a life-changing sort of teacher too.) When she accepted my friend request on Facebook, I wrote a note on her wall. I said, “I just wanted you to know that I recently retired after 31 years of being a teacher in middle school and high school. And a number of my former students have found me on Facebook and told me how much of a difference I made in their lives and how much I meant to them. I wanted you to know that you were that wonderful, inspiring teacher for me, and I couldn’t have done it without you.” That goopy little comment got more likes on Facebook than anything else I have ever written. People all over the United States were adding their thumbs-up to that post. They were her family and former students. And it wasn’t about me. It was about her. Teachers throw stones into the pools that are the lives of their students. And sometimes they can muddy the water, but more often than not, they make a splash that needed to be made, and the ripples of it can flow all the way to the ocean.
So, what is this really about? I have just revealed a secret to you. If you remember any of your teachers, and you need to get even with them, or you just need to pass it on, now you know how to make them cry… and feel good about it at the same time.