Some memories you wish you could banish forever and others are so wonderful that the idea of encasing them in amber seems the most fitting tribute. Sadly we too often concentrate on those memories that cause us pain which is why when I saw the I Challenge You writing prompt for Nostalgia I was immediately captivated. There are so many memories when I look back now, that hold such wonder and nostalgia for me but I think the one that had the most impact on my life goes way, way back to my school days and a wonderful teacher who understood there are more ways to teach than one.
I’ve always loved to read, can’t remember a time when I couldn’t and so by the time I was twelve I had moved onto books that some would have considered too old or difficult. My parents never tried to rein my reading in even when I was waltzing through Shakespeare in primary school. People said that it would be too hard and that I’d never understand it and for the most part they were right, there were concepts that I just didn’t get at the time.
What they didn’t realise is that I viewed and still view books as friends, something to come back to again and again as understanding grew and perspectives changed. Becky Sharpe from Vanity Fair was just a clever but naughty girl to me at 10, a wanton user as a teen and a lost soul desperately trying to carve out a place for herself and not realising she was destroying more than she gained as an adult. The subtle nuances of the setting and it’s commentary on the social mores of the time grew more apparent as I aged, read more and studied the author and the era.
So when the class was asked to read The Endless Steppe in English for year 8 I had already completed it [and all the other set texts] before the year started. Not wanting to draw attention to this fact, as I had been given a hard time by teachers in the past not believing me and then becoming angry when they asked questions that I could answer [never really understood that], I merely hid another book inside my folder to read when it came time to read and discuss in class.
I was so engrossed in Clive James ‘Unreliable Memoirs‘ that I didn’t hear my teacher ask me a question nor did I see her approach my desk [this book also got me into trouble in Divinity with Sister Chaisley]. In fact I wasn’t aware of anything until she bent over and picked up the book right out of my folder. I sat there waiting for the inevitable ‘see me after class‘ and for my book to be confiscated [that worrying me more than possible detention] but to my surprise she looked at the cover, looked at me and I mean actually looked at me as a person not a student and asked me what I thought of it.
Her only comment apart from that was to say that if I felt I must read in class I was to make sure it was worth reading and she would want a written review on each one. My friends took this to mean I was in trouble and that I would never try to sneak another book in again. I knew differently, for the first time I had a teacher who appreciated the fact that she had a reader in her class and so she was doing her best to encourage it and teach at the same time.
I will never, ever forget that moment when she stared straight at me and saw more than a student doing something other than the prescribed task. She saw more than that and she went further, she encouraged me to stretch myself and to come out of hiding. She showed me that is was a good thing to be smart, that it was a wonderful thing to love to learn and to read. It was a defining moment for me, one I recognised and took hold of and one I will always remember.