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The Teachers in Our Lives

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My kids started a new school year, so, naturally, I've been thinking a lot lately about teachers. It's interesting how, when you (or your child) have a not-so-great teacher (not this year, fingers crossed!), it puts in sharp relief all the marvellous teachers you've encountered. I've been lucky enough to have several such teachers over the years.

Like my English teacher, a British woman who patiently read and corrected the stories and letters I wrote because the curriculum bored me to tears. She was the first to encourage my creative writing streak, and even though it's been dormant for many years, I'm grateful for that encouragement and for her planting the idea that, yes, I might be able to be a writer.

Or one of the teachers in my army course, who remained unflappable as I recounted the many failures I've had with computers (including knocking down the entire school network, after which I was pretty much banned for the computer lab). He looked at me and said that he doesn't care if I knock the network down a hundred times, as long as I figured out what I did wrong and as long as I've made different mistakes in each of the times.

Or my PhD supervisor who still gently corrects the culturally disastrous foot-in-my-mouth phrases in my academic writing. Who had taught me how to think critically and clearly, how to give feedback and even criticise someone's work without being mean or making them feel bad so that you can feel good. How to be quietly and confidently capable, and how to have a civil discussion with someone you disagree with without ever being disagreeable, but without ever relenting what you know is right. Who had been so supportive as I've bailed on her time and again to have a life outside of academia.

Or my adult lit teacher, to whom I'm returning today, who never once made me feel bad for the gaping chasms in my literature education. Instead, she recommended additional reading and gave me opportunities to think deeply about fiction, to be inspired by it. She had made room for me in the conversation about books and made me feel welcome in the world of literature. I don't think I would have dared write without that experience.

So, here's to all the teachers who have started the school year. To all of you who work hard to kindle the fire of learning. To all of you who give up your precious break time to console a crying child or to have a stimulating discussion with a curious student. To all of you who've been at it for years but can still see the students as people. To all of you who open doors for others, and hold them open patiently until we find the courage to step through. Please, please, carry on.


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