Letter to a teacher

I’m currently reading a very wholesome book called Write a Letter by Jodi Ann Bickley.

One of the early exercises asks you to write a letter to a teacher who inspired you. Well, here it is.

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Dear Max

It feels strange to call you that, but I’m in my mid 30’s now and so I think it’s reasonable for me to do so!

It has been nearly 20 years since I finished up at [school name redacted]. Since then, I’ve lived in five different cities across the world and visited or worked in something like 25 different countries. I say this not to aggrandise myself, but to point out that God has been good to me in giving me the sort of experiences that the awkward ‘teenager me’ could only have dreamed about (but probably didn’t dream about, because teenagers are not clever enough).

I write clearly enough; I always have. But what I haven’t been doing well enough in is writing for pleasure, or to stay in touch. As a result, I have spent a good amount of 2020 writing for pleasure, writing to friends or just typing and seeing where the words take me. Some of my writing has been published in a few industry publications. Even then, finding inspiration is sometimes a bit difficult.

As a kind of remedy, I’m currently reading a book called ‘Write a Letter’. The very first exercise asks you to write to a teacher who inspired you. I feel as though you won’t be offended that I didn’t think of you first. I was at [school] 20 years ago and, frankly, barely remember it, let alone the teachers.

However, as I mulled over it this morning, you bubbled to mind. And as I thought about it more, I realised that it was because the enduring memory that sticks with me is that you had respect for me.

There are good teachers and there are bad teachers, I am sure… But ‘teachers’ aside, there are also educators and potential-seekers. I think you were one of those.

The respect you had for me – as an individual, as a human – is something that I can still vividly remember, and set you apart from others in the faculty (not just at [School], but generally).

A few distinct memories of you from my time at [School] came to mind today. Two are pertinent here:

  1. In probably the only ‘bad’ thing I ever did at school, I found myself in trouble for being a smart-arse to a teacher (whose name I recall but I won’t mention). I was dropped a ‘behaviour level’ (which, in hindsight, was a pretty ungracious system) and sent off to a few detentions. Incidentally, my sentence was kindly mitigated by my ally – the deputy principal – which proved to be an early lesson in the value of what is known in the Middle East as ‘wasta’. As I came to the end of my last detention, you publicly commended me in the detention room for accepting my sentence in good grace, accepting what I did was wrong and moving on with life. It probably made me look like a golden child, but you called out the good in a (very mildly) bad situation and the lesson stuck with me.
  2. On my very last day of school – education complete, bar for the ceremony – you took time to pull me aside and give me (and my Dad, if I recall), some guidance on possible career that you felt I might not have come across or given enough thought to. You were extremely gracious in doing so, and called out skills that you saw in me that (as a skinny 16 year old) I hadn’t yet seen. In fact, I didn’t really begin to use those skills until about 5 years into my career (ten years or so after you saw them).

So, all of that aside – thank you. You showed respect to a 16 year old who was a bit of a non-entity. I think that is why I thought of you when the book asked me to think about a teacher who inspired you. That kindness has stuck with me.

Yours

James

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