Monday, June 23, 2014

The Things Teachers Do

What do two middle-aged high school teachers and a hair metal band from the '80s have to do with each other?  They prove that the teacher-student relationship lasts a lifetime.

In 1986 she moved from Illinois to a small city in southern Indiana to teach Latin after a local legend had retired.  She had taught previously, but was not that long out of college, and while she would teach for a number of years at this Indiana high school, she would eventually return to Illinois to teach at her alma mater for the remainder of her career.  If she were to have built any kind of relationship with her first students in Indiana, you would have thought it would have been with those in her Latin I class.  They knew no other teacher and would be completely hers.  The seniors should have been least likely to form a bond with her since the majority of their study had been under someone else.

(Marcene, me, my friend Bryan McCorkle, and my mom)

I was one of those seniors, and I can tell you none of us knew quite what to make of our new teacher who changed the arrangement of the desks and was hopelessly devoted to all things Stevie Nicks and purple.  Yet in that one year as a student with Miss Marcene Holverson, I received the finishing touches on my dream to become a Latin teacher.  She introduced us to new activities and gave leadership tips that I have shared with other teachers over the years and still follow to this day.  She stayed in touch with several of us through college, and when I finally entered the teaching world, we became colleagues.  We email frequently, I have been fortunate to speak at her Illinois high school for Latin conventions on several occasions, and she was an honored guest at my Teacher of the Year banquet this year.

So where does the rock and roll come in?  In the late spring of this year, I was on Facebook and a message popped up from Marcene (now Farley after marrying and returning to Illinois) saying that my favorite band, Stryper, would be performing in her town in June.  A few clicks later I had tickets for my son, 13, and me to attend.  We arrived early the day of the show for Marcene to load my truck with boxes of Classics books, some dating to the late 1800s.  She is not retiring, but said that there comes a point when a person has to start getting rid of things.  We had dinner with her parents, and then she said she would lead us to the venue.

(Marcene, me, my son)

Pause for a moment.  As Joan Jett sang, "I love rock and roll, so put another dime in the jukebox, baby!"  I agree with KISS, for "I want to hear it loud, right between the eyes."  I am one happy camper going from Vergil to Whitesnake, Cicero to Bon Jovi, Catullus to Deep Purple.  There are times when I just want a little Led for my head.  I think you get the picture.  So I was pumped to pull into a small parking lot in front of Goodfellas', a local Italian eatery that featured a stage that has hosted some pretty big names in music.  This was to be a small venue, where the fans crowded around the stage and despite the heat would bang there heads for four hours.  Rock as it was meant to be.

Standing in line (the tickets were general admission), I gasped when Stryper lead singer Michael Sweet came out to say hi to the crowd.  I called out to him and we exchanged some pleasantries, including his asking my son about his Lego creations.  Suddenly Marcene called out, "Michael, will you take a picture with them?"  I handed her my phone, and she snapped several pictures of Michael Sweet with my son and me.  I was on the moon!  Think screaming teens when the Beatles came to the U.S.

(My son, me, and Michael Sweet)

As the doors opened and we started to enter the venue, Marcene took her leave and told me she would stay up so I could call if I needed to on the drive home.  We would be traveling back to Indiana in the middle of the night, and she didn't want me to fall asleep at the wheel.

Teachers and students.  What happens between human beings who occupy these roles is more complex than could ever be grasped by the blunt instrument of an evaluation.  Teachers buy students food and materials that they cannot afford.  Students invite us to their weddings.  I was humbled and honored beyond measure when a former student and her mother asked me to walk the bride down the aisle since the dad was not in the picture.  Once, the social studies teacher on my 8th grade middle school team and I took off at lunch to pay respects at the funeral home for the passing of the mother of one of our students.  Teachers listen, counsel, and try to open up the world to the students who share their lives, their hearts, and their dreams with us.  It does not end when they leave our classroom.  It is not finished when we retire.  It goes on and on, and as one summer night in Pekin, Illinois, recently proved, it lasts a lifetime.

(Stryper covering "Jesus Is Just Alright" at the Pekin concert)

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