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The Class That Changed My Life

January 19, 2009

Saw a great blog post on Harper Academic from one of their employees about what class changed her life.   It got me thinking about a class from a *long* time ago and something I did recently.

I wonder how many teachers actually hear about the impact that they have had on a student’s life.  I mean, being raised by a teacher, I’ve heard repeatedly about what a tough and thankless job it can be.  How many of us actually can 1. point to a class that changed everything for them and 2. get a chance to tell that teacher how much he or she has inspired them?

For me, the class that changed my life was 11th grade American History.  To which I can give all the credit to the teacher, Mr. Albert Fields.

Mr. Fields was a historian, for sure, but he was also a story teller.  He truly made the past come to life.  He showed how history was never black and white, but always something that had to be viewed in shades of grey.  He taught us to not take anything at face value, and to think, to analyze and scrutinize before you came to a conclusion.  When the final exam asked questions like, “How did the election of Ronald Regan hark back to themes raised by the first Continental Congress” and you were not able to just answer that, but understand what he was getting it and take that recent event back to 1786, well now, that was something.

When I was floating aimlessly in college, lost both metaphorically and physically, I decided to go back to my roots and switch my major to History.  The foundation that Mr. Fields gave me back in High School ended up shaping my college career.  It’s still a part of me today. Thinking like a historian gives you a unique perspective into any situation, coming in handy in my personal and work life.

Recently, a friend let me know that she had Mr. Fields’ email address.  Without hesitation, I wrote him a letter about how he and his class had shaped who I am today, and thanked him profusely.  He was most gracious to receive such a note, and it gave me great pleasure to be able to tell him how much he and his class meant to me.

Do you have a teacher or a class that had such an impact on you?  And if you haven’t already, what would you say to your teacher if you had the chance?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2009 10:28 am

    As a teacher of 30+ years, I concur with your mother that it can often be a thankless and grueling profession. Yet, I wouldn’t choose any other way to spend my professional life than sharing ideas and dreams with people who are starting out on life’s path.

    Mrs. Lindsay’s 11th grade English class influenced me greatly, and while I can’t remember a specific class meeting, I do recall a couple of comments that she scrawled across my paper, one being, “Too wordy.” The other was written after a sentence that began, “Needless to say….” What did this nonsense teacher do? She wrote, “If it’s needless to say, then don’t say it,” and then she scratched out the sentence.

    I’m still a bit wordy, but when I really get carried away, I think of Mrs. Lindsay and her lessons.

  2. January 19, 2009 12:01 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Marlajayne. It is amazing what we remember from school and what stays with you. And how things you think mean nothing as a teacher stay with kids forever. Like the English teacher who told me never to start a sentence with and, but or or. But, I do this, and I always think of her and feel badly when I do!

  3. January 19, 2009 11:43 pm

    Wonderful post. For me that teacher was Frank McCourt. I always had a love of literature but he took it to another level in his Irish literature class in High School. I believe he also planted the seed in me of being a writer. Another tidbit is he’s responsible for landing be the job where I met my future husband. It was so funny years later when I went with my family along with my twins to see him at at reading to tell him he was responsible for my kids.

  4. January 20, 2009 1:28 pm

    I remember reading that on your blog, Kwana. What did Mr. McCourt say when you said he was responsible for your kids? I’m assuming a witty comeback!

  5. January 21, 2009 8:52 pm

    Many wonderful teachers, my 3rd grade teacher Carlton Ridge and my high school art teacher Mr.Mahoney. Both had traveled and were colorful individuals. Also my ballet teacher Madame Heller was amazing. They all loved imparting their knowledge and making you want to do your best.

  6. January 22, 2009 1:32 pm

    Hi Ellen, sorry to be so late. Mr. McCourt threw up his hands and said he would not take responsibility for them! Then he laughed. I told him I was writing. He was gracious enough to give me is agents name as a contact and everything although she was not taking on new clients at the time.

  7. May 24, 2009 6:40 pm

    ха-ха смешно

    здесь видел ет gamebulletin.ru

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