Thursday, May 28, 2009

Being a Teacher

I was not the greatest academic student in the world. I never raised my hand in class. And when Mr. P in my dreaded AP American History class would call on me out of the blue (he liked to do that), my voice would quiver, I'd stumble over my words, have no idea what the answer was and end up feeling like a complete idiot. And it sucked. Especially when I went to school with a bunch of geniuses.

I did what I had to do in order to make the grade and get by at Stanton College Prep. I always made As and Bs. And even though I thought As and Bs were pretty good, my dad would always tell me I could do better. Apparently an A+ was the only way to go. But my heart wasn't really into math or science or history or physics or calculus or even P.E..

But then in eighth grade I found myself taking a drama class. It was the only elective that sounded kinda cool. And it seemed like most of the upper class cool kids were in theater. And that's how I met Jeff Grove. Mr. Grove was my drama teacher. I had him most of my junior and high school years. It was fate, I think. Early on, he seemed to recognize something in me. Something, I guess he though was kinda special. And because he knew it was something I loved and something I was a little good at, he pushed me to keep going and grow. He told me I could do anything, be anything. Be on Broadway even. Really? He wrote me countless letters of recommendation for colleges and came to every single one of my community theater productions from Fiddler on the Roof to Ah Wilderness. And I will never never never never ever ever forget how he inspired and motivated me to do what I loved to do. He even has the "Executive Producer" credit on my last short film. Because even 20 years later, he still believes in me.

About two and a half years ago, I started teaching film. I had students from the age of 12 all the way up to 60 years old. And through these last two and a half years, I saw in so many of my students what Mr. Grove must've seen in me. And when you think you might be doing something so small like telling a fifteen year old "Hey, you know what? You're a really great editor. You should edit more stuff." that it'll make such an impression that two years later his mom finds her way into your office. She's holding a graduation announcement and a thank you letter for encouraging and believing in him. And that's when the tears start flowing. That thank you letter ... one of the greatest gifts someone could give me.

My hats off to teachers everywhere. You inspire and encourage and believe. You make an imprint on children's lives that you may never ever ever realize. I wish we could pay you each a million bucks a year. Cause really that's what you deserve.

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