7/27/12

Learning from others

I had a teacher in 10th grade, who taught English. She was one of my favourite teachers of all times. She not only loved reading, but also writing, and obscure words. She loved going to England every year, and would show us pictures of her travels. She frequently asked us to read, and to encourage it, she would offer extra credit to anyone who chose a book from her personal bookshelf (kept behind her desk), and come back and discuss it with her. The beauty of the deal is that she didn't make more work for herself by having you write a report on it. Instead, it was more like an informal discussion that you'd have with your friend about a book that she enjoyed, and that you enjoyed.

I remember being in her class, and having the infinite pleasure of meeting another book addict. I took her up on her offer. When my 2 books per semester ran out I asked if she didn't mind if I just kept reading, just for the hell of it. She had an extensive collection of Sidney Sheldon, Jeffery Archer, Ken Follet, and a bunch of other contemporary writers. They weren't High Literature, because she knew she was dealing with high school kids. Instead, they were just fun reads.

During this time, when I was enrolled in honours and AP classes, after school activities (AKA, drama club, track, and weekly prayer meetings with my parents), I still managed to read through one novel every day. The best part was her delight in giving me a book, having me read it, and discussing it with her the very next day. It's like instant gratification, because often when I reccommend a book to a friend, it takes them however long to read it, and we don't discuss it until weeks or months later. So to have another book addict to chat with was amazing.

She kept giving me thicker and more complex books. Jeffery Archer's As the Crow Flies, and Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth were two such examples. I knocked out As the Crow Flies in a day and a half, and Pillars of the Earth in three.

There was this lady, intelligent, talented, and lots of fun to hang out with, teaching a class of honours English to students who frequently didn't appreciate reading. year after year. I remember asking her one day how she could keep up. "Aside from finding other book addicts like you, I find that every year, I learn more from my students."

I was floored. Here was this woman, who was so intelligent and varied in her interests (and books), who said that she was learning from her high school students! Ever since then, I have made it my personal mission to see to it that I strive to learn from everyone I meet, even when it's me who's the teacher in that situation. One of my cooking students, Ari, mentioned that she hates to wrestle with a butternut squash, because she's not got the arm strength for it. So, she just throws the whole thing into the oven like that, and roasts it until it's tender. This is something she taught me after I'd spent day after day in the restaurant kitchen, wrestling enormous piles of butternut squash, and cursing every minute of it (they really are stubborn). Here's someone who was asking me to teach her to cook, teaching me a new technique to use in my own life!

Never discount the lessons that you learn from others. Even those who are younger, or less experienced, or less talented. All of them have something to teach you.

Thank you, Mrs. Deshong. You are a wonderful teacher, and I hope that wherever you are today, you're enjoying a good book.
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