“Look It Up!”

I came across this quotation today and I immediately thought of my mother.

My mother is a teacher by nature.  She taught English for many years, but even after she left the classroom, there has been an element of education in everything she’s accomplished.  I think it’s in her DNA.  She once told me a story about one of her relatives that taught with Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.  I think I come from a long line of educators.

When I was a kid, my mother taught a class on life skills to young adults with learning disabilities.  She would take me to class with her and I would learn right along with them.  Mom is not one to pacify; she expects the same out of everyone, regardless of their ability, and that is to perform at your highest potential, whatever that may be.  I have many memories of her forcing me to reach that potential.  Most of them involve me asking her a question only to hear “Look it up!” as her response.

My favorite memory of mom using her teacher skills on me was in elementary school.  I can’t remember if I was in the third or fifth grade.  We were assigned to write a book.  We had to tell a story in chapter form and after we finished, the teacher taught us how to bind the book.  (It was a pretty cool assignment, in retrospect.)  I decided to write about a cat and that’s about all I had as an idea.  Well, that wasn’t good enough for my mom.

“Tell me about the cat.  What does it look like?”

“It looks like a cat.”

“Ok, but what does this cat look like?  What color is it?  What size is it?”

After she pulled a thorough description of  the cat out of me (I decided it was a pink cat that had a peculiar mark on it), then I had to decide what happened to the cat.  And each step of the way, I had to be thorough in my description.  I remember once responding to her with, “I don’t know” and she fired back with “Why don’t you know?  This is your story.  You do know.  Now tell me.”

Eventually, I churned out a pretty good story that I am still proud of 30 years later.  Had my mom told me how to spell every word and spoon-fed me the details of the story, I’m sure I would’ve forgotten about this experience a long time ago.  She knew I had the potential to figure it out and she made me do it at every turn.  For that, I am thankful.

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