Over the years, I've had my fair share of "ha, you're an English major; you should teach, since you're probably only going to be good for that" jokes/puns/comments hurled my way. Some, I take better than others, because friends can call you a loser or insult your mother. But, let someone else do it, and fists sometimes fly. However, years ago, I wanted to be a teacher. Please note that I have nothing against people who become teachers, since you all have a ton more patience than I ever will. So, hopefully, I didn't lose some of my teaching allies/friends/people I look up to with that introduction. Bare with me.
I thought that teaching in a traditional setting (in a school, with 20-30+ teenagers hanging onto my every word) was the only way that I could enact change. See, I'd tried the militant approach, through teenager-y rebellions against City and their use of racially insensitive/ignorant terminology ("the Chinese corner store" down the block from City College was run by people who weren't Chinese at all) and through protests around Baltimore over budget cuts (something I'd been against since my days in elementary school). I'd tried to become class president and utilize a laissez-faire approach to empower those around me (it failed because it's high school and everyone wants the power for themselves; it'd make a decent book someday). I even utilized the words of my high school crush, Ms. Pink Jacket, not take myself so seriously to try and win people over (I learned that, even though I shouldn't take myself too seriously, I can't be one of those people who's completely laid back).
However, as much change as I could enact, I still felt hollow, empty. I had the feeling that, if this was the limit to my non-"teaching" teaching abilities, I would always be unfulfilled and would probably have to become a "legitimate" teacher just to quench the cliched thirst for spreading knowledge. But, one thing I always had a knack for was writing.
Over the course of my junior and senior years, one of the teachers at City, Mr. Miazga, became accustomed to my musings about high school life. Honestly, I expected him to dismiss it as cliched drivel, partly because of its sometimes gossipy feel, partly because of my pining over MPJ. I don't think I need to go down that path again, since it's
probably literally on record and will probably be brought up ad nauseum at my ten-year high school reunion by someone hellbent on trying to make me look bad for whatever unholy reason they have since their own life goals didn't exactly pan out and I was the quirky smart kid who, even as class president, stayed mostly to himself (yay jealousy!). I also thought that since I was brutally honest, that he'd think I was one of those troubled children that'd attempt to do something heinous to his classmates.
Nevertheless, even with those potential negatives piled up, he stopped me and passed along messages through other students that he was a fan of my work. I was elated, since, truth be told, I always looked up to Mr. Miazga since I met him during my high school orientation and considered him one of the "cool" teachers, talking about the Tigers (still an O's fan, though) and all his awesome Michigan (State) adventures. I also found elation in his praise because I was just about ready to stop writing, pack it up, and leave it alone for good.
After getting these messages, I decided to use the pen to enact change. I'm no Twain or Achebe, but I knew that I wasn't always able to be front and center with my rebellion against the system like others are. I have children I need to take care of and, honestly, I'm 5'7 on a good day. If I'm on your front lines, fighting with my hands and fists, your rebellion is probably doomed to be damned in the first place.
Almost ten years and probably a million or so views later, if you count the music posts, actual music, entries on other sites, etc., here I am (for better or worse). And, it wouldn't have been possible without those random conversations I had back in high school. So for that, and to all the teachers out there like you, thank you. Please, for the love of all that is right in this world, continue to spread positive energy, encouragement, and all those good things. That goes for everyone because you never know: the next person you talk to may grow up to be a legend. Or, at least, a halfway successful person in life thanks to your encouragement.