Sunday, October 5, 2014

Happy World Teachers' Day

In honor of World Teachers' Day, I've been thinking about some of my most life-changing moments as it relates to teachers. While there were many, most were associated with the books a few of my favorite teachers encouraged me to read, books that were memorable (much like the wonderful teachers recommending them).

The most unexpected and out of the box for me was The Catcher in the Rye. I'll be the first to say that the book does not follow any sort of typical flow. The narrator is first person. He's all over the map. You've got to work just a little to keep up with him and his flight of ideas. Still, everything about it works. You instantly get into Holden's head and feel sorry for him even though you know he's not yet of age, a heavy smoker, been kicked out of his prep school, and is cynical. Somehow, the entire package is endearing.

The next book that changed the way I read is P. S. I Love You (Sweet Dreams, #1). It's been thirty years since I read that book, and I still remember P. S. (Paul Strobe), I love you.

After that, there is Charlotte's Web. I remember my kindergarten teacher reading this book to my class while we rested our heads after recess. I loved it so much, I begged my mother to by it for me so I could read every word myself. 

The fact that The Catcher in the Rye and Charlotte's Web were still relevant thirty - forty years after they were published (when I read them)... that they are still relevant today speaks to how wonderful these authors are and how powerful their stories were (are). The fact that P. S. I Love You (Sweet Dreams, #1) is a book I still remember speaks to the tenderness of the story.

At the end of the day, I read and fell in love with these stories because a teacher took time from her busy day to share her passion. In my case, I had no choice but to buy and read these books... embrace the characters... and embed them into my heart, mind, and soul because the teachers recommending them had already done the same.

While I'm not sure words are enough, I'll at least try to offer my humble THANKS to the men and women who've pledged to educate our nation's children. Much like nursing, the work is hard and there's not nearly enough reward. I can only hope that teachers know and understand that even if they are not instantly acknowledged for their efforts, their students are taking it all in and allowing words, efforts, and recommendations to shape who they become.  

The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Year: 1951

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists.

It begins, " If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They're quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They're nice and all--I'm not saying that--but they're also touchy as hell. Besides, I'm not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy. I mean that's all I told D.B. about, and he's my brother and all. He's in Hollywood. That isn't too far from this crumby place, and he comes over and visits me practically every week end. He's going to drive me home when I go home next month maybe. He just got a Jaguar. One of those little English jobs that can do around two hundred miles an hour. It cost him damn near four thousand bucks. He's got a lot of dough, now. He didn't use to. He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was "The Secret Goldfish." It was about this little kid that wouldn't let anybody look at his goldfish because he'd bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he's out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there's one thing I hate, it's the movies. Don't even mention them to me."

His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.

P. S. I Love You (Sweet Dreams, #1)
Author: Barbara Conklin
Date: 1980

When her father left after the divorce, Mariah lost her sense of family. Now she's lost her special summer, too. Instead of fulfilling her dream to become a writer, Mariah has to help her mother with a house-sitting job in very rich, very snobby Palm Springs. People with a lot of money make Mariah uncomfortable. Until she meets Paul Strobe, the rich boy next door. Paul's not a snob and he doesn't act superior. In fact, his sandy sandy hair and piercing blue eyes break down all Mariah's defenses. With Paul, Palm Springs becomes the most romantic place on Earth.

But Paul has to go into the hospital for some tests and then an operation. He's seriously ill and all his family's money can't help him.

Will Maraih lose Paul, too, just when she's found her first love?

Author: E.B. White
Date: 1952

"I don't want to die!
Save me, somebody!
Save me!"

The tale of how a little girl named Fern, with the help of a friendly spider, saved her pig Wilbur from the usual fate of nice fat little pigs.

(From Puffin Books)

An affectionate pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, White reminds readers to open their eyes to the wonder and miracle found in the simplest of things.

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