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.