I Remember the JABBERWOCKY. And Mrs. Marino


A Post For Teacher Appreciation Day:

Thank you to Mrs. Jill Vohringer Marino, wherever you are. You’re the only person who believed in me, who was kind to me when I was a child. I never forgot you, nor how brilliantly you read “Jabberwocky” to us. Your 7th grade English was the only thing that got me through some dreadful times. You saved my life, and you don’t know that. How I wish I could find you and tell you so. I doubt it’s a coincidence that I became an English teacher too.

And to my former pupils:
Thank you to those of you who put up with my terrible teaching that first year. Okay, and admittedly, that second year too. Your patience and kindness made me determined to become a better teacher. I worked very hard at it, and I think — I hope — I achieved that. Thank you for the little notes you’ve sent when you found me on Facebook reminding me of what we read together, the plays we produced together, the interesting talks we had in the classroom together. Thank you to those of you who’ve kept in touch all these years, who’ve entrusted me with your friendship and secrets, and for making me feel my time as your teacher meant something to you.

To my former colleagues, specifically to those of you I know cared about our pupils as much as I did:
Thank you for the after-school planning sessions, the brainstorming of fun teaching ideas, the talks about this child or that who might need extra help, or who we suspected had a problem at home. We got no extra pay for that, but we believed we were doing something vitally important. I still think it was.

Finally, to any new teacher today:
What you do is crucial, more so than you’ve been told, or that you yourself might possibly believe. In the United States, it’s easier to get a gun than to get a good education, to find a teacher who sees beneath the surface of a child’s bad attitude and boredom with school to the pain, confusion and insecurity. In your time as a teacher you will teach hundreds of children and young adults. If you can make a difference to just ONE, you’ve changed how they think for the better, what they believe about themselves and the world. They will go forward and BE different — better, stronger, wiser — because of you. They will make better life choices and raise better children. All because you believe that what you do is more than just summers off, or an early day home.

A good teacher, like a good parent, never really has any time off. But, trust me — it’s so worth it. You will know that in twenty years, when a student you thought might not make it through finds you somewhere, and says, “You know the thing I remember most about your class?” And it’s something you may have forgotten, but your former pupil remembers with fondness. I doubt if Mrs. Marino remembers me, remembers the expression on her pupils’ faces as she read “Jabberwocky,” but, man, oh man, do I remember her. Believe in your pupils as she believed in me, and they will remember you too.

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