So I was out the other night at a friend’s birthday party.  We got together at their house first, then meandered off to a British pub down the street where we did the usual round of pub activities.  We drank, we ate, we talked, and we played drunken pool.

Now at first the conversation was the of  usual “hey how are ya/how ya doin” variety.  But after the pub we stumbled back to my friend’s place where we continued to talk and had cake, and we had some pretty interesting conversations that have kept me thinking over the last few days.  Well…at least the parts I can remember….

So my friend’s mom brings out the pictures of when they were younger.  Not naked-baby-in-the-bathtub younger, more high school/middle school younger.  And of course these pictures brought on conversations of our lives in high school, as most of us went to different high schools and only met in university, and of course alongside the tales of the stupid things we did as kids (which remarkably in some cases hasn’t really changed) we got onto the topic of high school teachers.

At first it was the teachers we least liked, or who did funny/stupidly memorable things during our tenure in hormone hell, but then we got all deep and emotional and started talking about the ones that really made an impact on our lives for the better, and changed us in profound ways.

For my part there were two teachers who had a large hand in making me who I am today.  The first one was my grade 6 homeroom teacher, who I think made me into the hardcore reader that I am today.  I was always an avid reader as a child, but most of the other teachers didn’t really care, and cracked down on me when I was reading in class after my work was done.  But she never did.  She was always happy to see me reading, and would talk to me about whatever I had in my hand that day, and encouraged the whole class to read by bringing in graphic novels of some classics.  We did a whole unit on Macbeth at one time, reading from these graphic novels.  We all thought it was so awesome.

The other teacher was actually my high school librarian.  I remember when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I spent the first two months in that library, researching the disease.  After the first week the librarian asked what I was doing there, missing classes all the time, and I told him the truth.  He walked away and came back with a book about his wife and daughter, one who lost her leg to cancer, the other her breasts.  And he told me I was welcome as long as I wanted.  He even ran interference for me once when another teacher came looking for me.  I think he was the first one to give me hope during that dark time in my life.  He was the first one who showed me that it wasn’t a death sentence for my mom, that my sisters and I wouldn’t lose our home and family, we could get through it.  I don’t think I ever really thanked him for that.

So for the past few days I’ve been thinking about these teachers, what they meant to me, what they must have meant to other students before and after me.  And how something so innocent as being interested in what you’re reading, or being understanding when you’re going through a crisis at that age can have such a profound impact on your life as to change -even just a little- the very core of who you are.  It’s astounding.  Ripples in a pond, you know?  I think it’s only when we look back at these people of our past who helped to  shape us into who we are today can we truly understand those old sayings like that.

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