I was a substitute teacher for one year and I learned three things:
- The inventor of hand sanitizer is a genius.
- The only thing worse than hall duty is lunchroom duty and the only thing worse than lunchroom duty is car line and bus duty.
- Teachers who remember why they teach, who look past the paperwork and rise above the school district politics, those teachers are saints. I’ve met a couple such teachers in my life.
When I was in second grade, I wrote my first baseball story about the Royals winning the World Series over the Braves. My mom saved it all these years. It is so bad I can’t force myself to read it from beginning to end in one sitting. Yet my teacher wrote on it, “You would make an outstanding sports reporter!” Mrs. St. Gemme saw the potential in every single student.
When I was in fifth grade, I got cornered by a kid who was older and bigger. He started teasing me about being bald. By this point in my life, I had developed solid coping mechanisms for teasing, but this one caught me off guard. Probably because of his size and particularly colorful language. I was in tears when I got back to my classroom. The teacher called me over to her desk and we confronted the bully together. She displayed some incredibly creative vocabulary, too. Mrs. Rhodes passed away a few years ago. The last time I saw her, she came to a book signing at Barnes & Noble and hugged me and said, “You always had the best sentences with your vocabulary words.”
And then there was the Physics and Chemistry teacher who swung a broom as good as a bat. Mrs. Reece had a great sense of humor and adventure.
When Kayla, a literacy professor at MSU, asked if I’d like to tell stories to the new inductees of Kappa Delta Pi, an International Honor Society in Education, I was honored. I also had one question: Will you play catch before the presentation?
Tuesday was full of rain and floods filling the streets. Thankfully, the lecture hall in Temple had ample room for catch playing before story telling.
Note to future self: Playing catch before telling stories is an excellent way to exercise (exorcise?) stomach butterflies.
Kayla’s baseball claim to fame is being voted, “Best Flower Picker of the Year” for her t-ball team.
That statement didn’t catch me off-guard.
What did catch me completely by surprise was when she said she is Chickasaw, and even tried to teach me a few words.
“It’s part of who I am. I view everything through a different lens. I see diversity and the need for diversity everywhere.”
I asked how being Chickasaw influenced her as a teacher.
“I intentionally incorporate multiculturalism in all I do. As a literacy professor, I have the joy and responsibility of doing it through books.”
Literacy professors are saints.
After I spoke and after the new members were inducted, one of the leadership team started talking about a new book she was reading as part of the Book Review Board.
Escape from Aleppo.
I wrote down the title excited for the chance to read it.
It was a delight telling stories at my alma mater. I even wore the jersey Coach Guttin gave me. After all, I’ve still got a few years of collegiate eligibility remaining.