The dedication for my upcoming release, Please Don’t, goes like this:
To every teacher who believed in me. Both of you…
Snarky? Sure, but let me explain...
Yes, I had more than two good teachers throughout my school years. I had some not-so-good ones as well. My wife is a teacher, so I know all too well the demands of the job. When I wrote this snarky dedication, she came to mind. But I was also thinking of another teacher, one whose words left an impact during a what was a tumultuous senior year in high school.
Quick backstory. The summer before twelfth grade, I’d moved across the country with my dad and stepmom and little sister. I was miserable. I complained until finally I was allowed to return home, where I moved in with my mom and her eight-year old-son.
So there I was, a senior, bunking with a very boisterous eight-year-brother. Not exactly how I drew it up, you know? As an emergency room nurse, my mom was working fifty hours a week, swing shifts, nights and weekends and even some holidays. So she had little time to keep up with my comings and goings. And I did a lot of coming and going.
With my dad thousands of miles away, I sort of went wild. And then some. I cut classes, skipped altogether on occasion, and basically made up for all those years of following the rules.
My English teacher did her best to reel me in. Sure, she too dished out some very well deserved detentions but... something was different. She noticed something no one else had noticed. Mainly how I kept up with my reading assignments during suspensions.
I didn't think much of it. I mean, sitting on the couch, there was only so much MTV I could absorb before I picked up that paperback in my bookbag. I read some, then I read ahead. I fell in love with the words of Steinbeck, Richard Wright, Harper Lee and many others. And this teacher was on to me.
During one of my more unruly episodes (I think I'd pitched my bookbag out the window), she walked me out to the hallway. I rolled my eyes and waited for her to send me packing to the principal’s office or tell me how I couldn’t do whatever stupid thing I was doing. But she didn't.
Instead, she told me what I could do.
She saw potential. She saw interest. She talked about college, something more akin to space travel in my mind at the time. She pleaded with me to try, to make an effort and to stop acting out. She challenged me.
Did it all work out in the end? Well, no. Or yeah, I guess. Whatever happened, I sure took my time realizing it. But that talk, some thirty years ago, still resonates with me. This one hopeful teacher, her belief in me, urging me to try, it's because of those few minutes in a quiet hallway that I never completely gave up. That I started writing at all.
So thanks, to this teacher I won’t name.
This book is dedicated to you.