Monday, June 12, 2006

Opening Up: A Dark Secret

Laura struck a nerve in her latest blog, “Oh I Knew You When…”

She claims I put “…everyone through an adolescent ring of fire.” True. I won’t deny it. And I did a number on a few cats too, especially to poor Billy.

I have matured and wouldn’t do anything like that to kids, although around Halloween I do like to close the classroom window blinds, turn off the lights, and tell frightening stories. A year never goes by that some kid doesn’t need to go out in the hall to escape the fear that my stories generate. I was mature enough by the time I became a teacher that I always tell them ahead of story time that they can freely leave without being kidded, teased, or embarrassed. I can scare the heck out o’ them with some of my “true” stories.

Laura also commented that “…he recognizes himself in every one of those little kids.”
Kapow! You hit the target dead center on that one. However, some of the recognition has to be pointed out to me. For example, I once came home complaining about some kid in my class. I told my wife, Peggy, “Alexandra will NOT shut up. All she wants to do is talk and yak.” Peggy cocked an eyebrow and said, “Well I wonder why THAT child is in YOUR class?!”

So far I have joked about the nerve Laura’s blog struck in me. It is time to reveal a more personal, serious part of me. It is time to open up my heart.

The real reason that I seem to be a Mr. Holland and inspire children the way my blogs suggest I do is that I have a deep seated need to be loved and admired, so that’s the way I write my blogs. In most of the blogs I put my best foot forward and try to get you, my reader, to like me, and this isn’t easy to admit. Have I ever messed up with students? Yes, but not often. Not often as the great jobs I have done, but yes. Parents all the time at my school are expressing a real hope their children will be in my class. I have an outstanding reputation at the school I am at, and I treasure my reputation for it is more valuable to me than great riches.

The secret as to why I have this need to be liked and respected by my readers is the same secret as to where I believe I get my inspiration for being the best teacher I can be. They come from the same source, and here it is. My wanting to be a great teacher doesn’t come from only heavenly-inspired, high-minded, lofty, celestial wisdom; it also comes from the knowledge of the cold, dark dungeon of despair and rejection.

I love my parents, even my father, but as a child, I didn’t get the love and self-confidence building attention that a kid needs. I know what it is like to be a child, try your best in activities that are of great importance to you, do a good job, and get a put down from your own parents. I know what it is like to express your career hopes to your parents only to be told hundreds of times that you will fail miserably and literally starve to death if you try such a foolish endeavor. I know what it is like to be told you are expected to go to college, make great grades in school (well, except for physics), only to be chided for your choice of colleges and possible majors, receive rebukes and criticism, a refusal of financial help, and then to be thrown out of the house because you wouldn’t eat what was on your dinner plate. I know what it is like to be a child and fear your father most of the time. To be afraid even when you hear his car pulling into the driveway.

I also know what it is like to try with all your heart and mind to be better at something that your father was miserable at, and that is to encourage and uplift children. That’s what I try to do. I became a teacher late in my life when I had matured and reconciled what a man really should be compared to the poor example I had been provided. I think this secret of mine is the same inspiration my brother Jack has to be the greatest father he can be.

I can empathize with kids and what they are going through, especially if they feel unworthy, small, inept, bothersome, irritating, unloved, and desperately seeking elusive approval, acceptance, and even love. These are things I didn’t give to my niece, Laura, because when she was young I hadn’t recognized, much less accepted, the truth of my own upbringing.

I know no other way of finishing this blog, and it might not make sense.

I was then. I am now.


Laura said...

To me, you and I are good at what we do for the same reason that comedians are funny: childhood adversity.

However, I am glad I am fortunate enough to benefit from both Uncle Walter and Mr. Holland. Makes me quite lucky.

Laura said...

And oh my god, talk about what you did to Billy! I don't remember exactly but I know the stories were fuuuunny!

Walter said...

Not to Billy.