I love the first day of school.
That’s probably because my first-day responsibilities are limited to liking everyone’s Facebook photos and maybe popping over to one of the local educational institutions for a quick story or picture.
When it comes to back-to-school shopping, preparing a classroom or teaching a kid how to do algebra, I’m just not involved. I have great admiration for those who are.
Now that I’m 20-plus years removed from my 1995 high school graduation, I can appreciate all the work that went into teaching, coaching, parenting and molding young minds.
High school wasn’t my favorite time in life. I struggled. I wanted to be pretty, popular, athletic and funny. I now see that even the people who appeared to have all those qualities were probably struggling too.
What a learning experience those years were. There were teachers who genuinely cared, who encouraged me to keep writing and helped me get college credits through advanced placement classes.
My senior-year English teacher Mrs. Davis had everyone in her class write a letter stating where we wanted to be in life the following year. She promised not to read them; we may have even sealed them in envelopes. We listed our goals, dreams and career plans. One year later she mailed each of those letters to us, and even though many were away at college, they arrived at our parents’ homes, addressed to us, so our parents couldn’t read them either – although I’m sure I shared mine.
Now when you’re 19 years old and you get a weird letter in the mail from yourself, it doesn’t strike you as particularly special. But thinking back now, that was really cool. It was a way to encourage young people to think about and plan for the future. That was one of those above-and-beyond things that teachers don’t have to do but they do because they care.
I don’t think I still have that letter to self from 1995. It probably wasn’t very well-written or interesting but it did get the wheels turning as I contemplated the kind of life and career I wanted to have.
I do still have a note from my second grade teacher, Raby Womack, which I will keep for the rest of my life. It says, “Your ‘last’ story will go in my box of special treasures. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. You are both.”
The “it is not often ...” quote is from “Charlotte’s Web” but the other words were Mrs. Womack’s. Now let this sink in. I was in second grade when she wrote that. I was 8 years old. She wasn’t even supposed to be my teacher. I had been assigned to the classroom of some devil woman who was mean and spanked people right in front of the whole class. You see, back then I was really sweet and sensitive; mean teachers scared me and made me cry. So my parents plucked me out of Satan’s class and I got assigned to Mrs. Womack. That was a God thing.
To this day we remain in contact, and I’m positive I’m not the only student she still speaks to. I will always credit her as the first person who recognized my ability to tell stories and allowed me to be creative. She is the reason I’m a writer.
You don’t have to be pretty or popular or athletic during your teenage years in order to find what you love to do and a person you love to share it with.
Thank you, teachers. Hang in there, parents. Work hard, students.
It’s going to be a great year.
April Towery is the managing editor of The Sealy News. She can be reached at 979-885-3562 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.