Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thank You, Marcus Bakeman

What inspires you?

As you think about this, let me tell you a story.  Imagine me as a junior in high school (put Sam's head on Jess' body and you have a pretty good representation).  It's the fall of 1986.  I walk down the halls of SHS, past the office, turn left and then turn into the first door on the right.  This is my English class.  I sit down and wait for class to begin. 

The teacher comes in.  He walks to the front of the class and holds up a small figurine.  It is of a Mexican man, sitting with his knees pulled to his chest, head resting on his knees so that his sombrero hides his face.  The teacher instructs us to write about this figure for the next ten minutes or so.  After a moment, hands go up.  "What are we supposed to write?"  "Will we be turning this in?"  "How long does it have to be?"  He answers, "Write whatever you want.  Write whatever you think about when you see this.  There is no length requirement.  You will be graded only on participation.  Write until I tell you to stop."

We did this every day with different prompts; it was called journal writing.  Sometimes it was an object, like the figurine.  Sometimes it was a song.  Sometimes it was a question.  My favorites were when he brought his guitar and sang -- especially Chalkin' and Huggin'.

The cynic would say that this was so that he could keep us busy while he got ready for our class. There could be many other, more altruistic, reasons for doing this as well.  But the reason doesn't matter. What matters is what I learned.

I learned to look.  I learned to notice.  I learned to think.  I learned to express.

It was one of these journal writings that helped me and my best friend discover that we had opposing political beliefs.  It was through these journal writing prompts that I was exposed to Don McLean and James Taylor.  And it was in these journal writings that I discovered my love for essay writing.

I'd always written, for as long as I'd known how.  I'd written poetry and short stories.  But never did I feel more free than when I did these exercises.  Never did I feel more empowered than when I discovered how to express my thoughts and opinions safely on paper.  And I loved it.

Sometimes people ask me how on earth I chose "that" topic to write about in my blog, whatever that may be.  "You notice such strange things."

And I think back fondly and thank this teacher, not just for teaching me the assigned subject, but for teaching me to think and helping me discover something about myself.  Thank you, Marcus Bakeman.  May you ever continue chalkin' and huggin'.


Jessica Grosland said...

I had an inspiring English teacher IN THAT VERY SAME ROOM!!!

(*shudders*) Weird.

Yarell said...

That sounds like a cool class. I had a few 'inspiring' teachers like that as well.

Kazzy said...

A good teacher is so much more powerful than he/she might realize. And the best ones don't even know how great they are!