I had a lot of teachers in high school. And I can say with complete honesty only about four were actually any good. Not necessarily all good teachers but good people. I also had the jerks, like the one teacher who called me a “little asshole” and actually dared me to punch him (straight outta The Breakfast Club) and I had a couple of others that were genuinely good people and believed in what they were doing (trying to teach teen age kids has to be harder than cat wrangling). But even after all this time only one name stands out for me. Mrs. Drake. She was my grade 12 English teacher.
Now I will be the first to admit that I was a less than stellar student in high school…mainly because I took the meaning of high school too literally. I was high…a lot. I was what one might call a stoner and an ambivalent student (years on, I might argue the two go hand in hand).
But it being an English class I took it relatively seriously (I liked books…grammar not so much) and did pretty well in it. Fortunately, I read a lot which meant that I knew how to formulate a thought and could articulate a proper sentence. Even stoned.
I wasn’t the most vocal student in her class and I generally kept to myself. I’d mumble whatever answer I had available when I was called upon and would be known to make a snarky remark now and again but the truth was I had respect for Mrs. Drake.
Something told me that this aging hippie knew a think or two about the counter-culture which I was personally studying in great detail at the time. A memory creeps into my head that tells me she went to Kent State during the time when the students were shot (Memory is a weird thing and I admit I could totally be making that up, but I know somewhere I had a teacher in high school who was there).
But what was it that made me realize she gave a shit about this somewhat misanthropic 17-year-old?
Periodically she would give us class reading time to read whatever we wanted and on one particular Friday we had a reading day. I was knee-deep in some Bob Dylan biography when she called me over. “Come on, I am gonna take you to the library.” Never one to flagrantly disregard authority (my disregard for authority was much more subtle) I went with her.
We didn’t speak as I tagged along and once there she knew exactly where to go and pulled out a book for me. She handed me Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. “You should read this book. I think you will enjoy it.” I turned it over to read it and was intrigued. She then took it back and we walked to the counter for me to check it out.
Now this seemed like good timing as I was grounded that weekend for some unrecalled infraction (one of the three times I was actually grounded in high school) and since I just scored an eighth of mushrooms, reading the book seemed like a great way to spend the weekend (the mushrooms also seemed like a good idea).
That night I went home, ate dinner, ate some mushrooms (obviously, the mushrooms were unbeknownst to my parents) and dove into Slaughterhouse Five.
OK, not one of my smarter ideas. I eventually had to put the book down and resort to headphones and some Led Zeppelin but I did return to the book later and it began a five-year journey and love affair where I absorbed almost everything by Kurt Vonnegut.
Mrs. Drake was right.
So give a shit when you can. You can make a difference by doing something small, something inconsequential and what lies ahead tells me that we are all going to need to be doing these sorts of small things over the next few years to make life a little better for all of us.
Think about doing a little kind thing now and again, you just never know the influence it may have.