Monday, September 18, 2006

Back-to-School Night

I went to Back to School night at my son's high school. He's a senior so this is the last Back to School night for me, ever.

It is also his English teacher's last year before he retires. The English teacher, Mr. Baird, has been teaching there for forty years, and he's still one of the best-loved teachers there. After forty years and countless students, the man still shines in the classroom and has a way with kids that makes them want to suceed; to make him proud of their work. Truly, the man is gifted.

He was also my English teacher, too, lo those many years ago.

So when I went to my last Back to School night, which would also be his last, I took a copy of my latest book to give to him. I wanted to give him something, to let him know in some way how much his teaching had fueled a passion in me that never let go. To let him know that he had set my feet firmly on a path that had brought me incredible satisfaction and allowed me to reach my dreams.

But I had to wait until my fifth book to do it. It wasn't until then that I felt confident enough in my writing, proud enough of the story I'd gotten on the page, that I was comfortable letting Mr. Baird see it.

It was a complex moment, handing him that book. I felt awkward and embarrassed, but immensly proud, too. In some ways, it felt like I was turning in a paper that was thirty years late. And yet I also felt like I was handing him proof of how much his teaching had meant to me, proof of how profoundly he had affected my life.

Because the truth was, critics and reviewers be damned. It was what Mr. Baird thought that was truly important to me.


KC said...

I know you've said that you were trying to get young boys to read more, but my daughter loves the books too. And it's great that the Cherry Forums are going to discuss your book.

Robin L said...

Oh, this is such great, GREAT news; that your daughter likes the books! Yippee! I really did try to include elements that would appeal to both boys and girls.

And I'm hugely flattered that my book was chosen for the book discussion. (Nervous, too!)

Sheri said...

I have a teacher like that in my past also. Miss Van Gilst taught English in Jr High and she is the one who first told me that I should put my stories down on paper. If she hadn't given me that little nudge, I may have never figured it out for myself! And like you, I would love to put my own book in her hands--it would mean the world to me. She is now a professor of English at Dordt College, but every now and then I drop her an email and she is always happy to hear from me.

As for the discussion--gotta go get involved before I fall asleep...

dee said...

Robin, you got me all teary! I bet your Mr. Baird was teary as well. You should send him a link to this post, you really should. Think about how much you love hearing that your books have touched someone, or that your advice has helped a new writer. Now think about if you were about to end a 40 year career teaching teens that rarely gave you praise and/or thanks. Yeah, send him a link here. It'll mean the world to him.

Robin L said...

Dee, I did write something similar to this post inside the book I gave him.

All I can say is thank goodness for teachers like him!