School has started! I’m so jealous for everyone who gets to buy supplies and go to class and take notes and learn academic things. Take me with you! Honestly, I miss being a student terribly and I wish I could go back. I didn’t realize how good I had it. I liked it, definitely, but I didn’t know how good I had it. So, when the emergence of Move In Week in Ann Arbor began and I heard how my nieces and nephew were back in school, I started thinking about the different things teachers have taught me, not necessarily about the subjects they taught, but about life, myself, and being a better version of me. (Because teacher’s hold that power. They have incredible influence over the lives of their students and for that alone they should be respected, not to mention all of the hard work they put into their jobs.) I wanted to share ten of the most influential things I’ve heard teachers say.
1. “I don’t care about your excuses.” – Mrs. Baker-Jenkins
I remember that it was sophomore year English class and I was trying to explain why I didn’t have the right book for one of my Speech presentations. Mrs. Baker-Jenkins looked at me and told me she didn’t care. It stunned the heck out of me because before that teachers had only ever coddled me, but she didn’t care. She didn’t want to hear a bunch of bullshit that I was peddling. She just wanted me to tell her the facts and how I was going to fix it. I give excuses occasionally now, but I’m always thinking that the person I’m telling doesn’t care. I try really hard just to own up to what I’ve done and only say how I’m going to go forward. I think it’s made me a better person.
2. “Am I supposed to congratulate you on something you should have done yesterday?” – Mr. Frank
He actually said this to the class. He was pissed about students who brought in papers late but then expected him to be all happy and excited to receive the late work. Essentially, they were doing exactly what they should have done but a day later. Their laziness actually cost him more work. If you are lazy, late, or both you don’t deserve praise. People who go above and beyond should get praise. Foundational thoughts, guys.
3. “You are what you think about when you’re alone.” – Dr. Migan
Words that have haunted me forever because they’re true. When you have no one to impress or worry about, that’s when you are most you. So who does that make you? It scares me a little. Sometimes it confuses me. Mostly, this has bled out into my daily life. Am I going to clock out for break even if there’s no one around to check on that? Am I going to stop for the whole red light even if no cars are around? Am I going to read the Bible if there’s no one to see me? Who am I? It really calls into question your actions, and puts weight to the decisions you make.
4. “You are a C student. You got a C.” – Dr. Migan
This was another case of a teacher talking in general to the class. He was complaining about students who got bad grades on tests or papers who’d whine to him, saying, “But I’m not a C student.” They were. They had the C to prove it. You are what you do. Sure, we can live in this wonderful fantasy land in which I say I’m one thing therefore I am, but are my actions proving that? I say I’m a good person, but is that true? I’m I really just a C student? I want to be what I say I am, and I find that I actually have to work to be as amazing as I proclaim to be.
5. “Google it!” – Professor Campbell
Professor Campbell was probably the most boss teacher ever. He was very old school and going deaf. He was funny. He shouted at random times.Despite the quote, he struggled with technology If you didn’t want to be in class with him, you’re wrong. Anyway, the class was trying to explain a poem we’d read back to him, and we were butchering it. We were trying to put a metaphorical spin on something that was a literal explanation of floating lanterns released in a certain part of the world. When he’d asked what the hell we were talking about, we explained that we thought it was just weird imagery (a clue into what we thought about poetry). He yelled at us, “Google it!” proving that you’re never too old to learn, and really that you even getting on Google to figure something out is okay as long as you’re learning. Education isn’t about already knowing something. It’s about learning things and continuing to learn things.
6. “You told her the ending?!” – Mrs. Winter
I thought Mrs. Winter was going to murder Lindsey for telling me the end of Hamlet. I mean, I’d guessed it kind of as a joke, but I really wasn’t expecting to have my theory confirmed. Mrs. Winter was so pissed though. There’s a sanctity to reading—to any story really— that must be upheld. To this day, even if I know someone has seen the movie, read the book, or watched the play, telling the end of a story is nearly impossible for me because I’m like, dude, some things you just don’t do.
7. “Ok, stop me if I sound dumb.” “Ok, stop.” – Dr. Looker
Papa Looker totally said this as a joke, but honestly, sometimes I’m dumb. I’ve never had anyone actually tell me to stop when I’ve said something like that before. People immediately fall into a “but you’re so smart” barf fest where I’m the greatest person ever. I’m not. And while Looker’s response was wholly in jest, at some point in your life you need someone to tell you that you need to shut up, even if it’s just to know what it feels like. Though, for the sake of record, I’m pretty sure I was making a brilliant point regardless, once Looker let me speak.
8. “You should talk to the school. You have really good ideas.” – Professor Weyand
Usually, I’m considered pretty smart. At least, that’s what people let me believe. This was different though. Jerry and I were talking about student lives on campus and getting people involved and how Conco treated their students. I impressed him. It was so weird, but he really thought I had valuable ideas that could improve campus. I could influence needed change in the world. That was cool to know I held that power of persuasion and intellect.
9. “You can get anyone to believe you if you lie with enough confidence.” – Mr. Roekle
Basically, I stopped trusting anything he said after this, but it’s so true guys. I pull this shit all of the time. People ask me questions and I give them answers that sound like they could be true. I swear to you, if you put confidence behind those words, people believe you. For reference, I convinced someone I was part black. No lie. It makes life REALLY super fun. Just be careful you know. With great power and all.
10. “Can I go to the bathroom?” “I don’t know, can you?” – That Mean Unionville Teacher
I don’t even remember her name. I know she taught third and fourth grade when I was in first grade. She made an active decision to make a joke of a first grader to the point where the entire third and fourth grade class laughed at me, to perpetuate an antiquated grammar rule that doesn’t reflect how the general population actually uses the language. If nothing else, this proves to me and hopefully you that teachers hold crazy power over their students. You can be awesome role models or that faceless, mean teacher that doesn’t actually do any good for a student’s development and is only remember for being a cocky jerk. And I know you’re thinking it was probably one moment in that whole teacher’s career, but it’s the only moment I remember of her and it’s stuck with me for almost two decades. Don’t be that influence in someone’s life.