Thursday, February 4, 2010

My someday is today

When I was a senior in high school, I was sitting in Mrs. W's classroom after school. She was helping me edit an essay for a scholarship contest. I was writing about, of all things, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead.

I've learned a few things since then. Namely, that being adamantly, defiantly selfish is not always the best way to go through life. Sorry, Ayn Rand. (Actually, she wouldn't be concerned about my thoughts at all, because she values her individual self above all else, blah blah blah...)

Anyway, Mrs. W was helping me edit my words (something about decrying the collectivist hordes), and she put down her pen and said, "Nancy, you're a really good writer. Maybe you'll be published in The New Yorker someday."

Those words have carried me along, almost twenty years later. I wrap myself in her words like a baby cocooned in a sling. I listen to the heartbeat of these words, and I am content.

For all I know, Mrs. W said this to lots of students. Who cares? She saw a future in me.

I haven't been published in The New Yorker. I taught public school, had a few babies, and the most writing I do these days is right in front of you. But, I still have a future, and I still have those words.

When I was teaching, I took a page from Mrs. W and always tried to link genuine talent to a future: "You're really interested in drama. Maybe I'll see you on Broadway someday." "You're so good at fixing things. Maybe you'll own a business someday." "Your photography is awesome. Maybe I'll see your work in a magazine someday."

I find myself doing this with the boys: "Owen, maybe you'll be a plumber someday." "Joel, maybe you'll work in the circus someday." "Boys, maybe you will be a tag-team wrestling duo someday."

Mothers dream.

So, as I opened my New Yorker magazine yesterday, I looked at the letters to the editor section. There was a letter advocating health care reform from an economic perspective. The author was a former student---an amazingly gifted young man. I was his sixth grade English teacher; he is now a senior in high school.

And he, that student, has in fact been published in The New Yorker. His "someday" is today.

I imagine many encouraging statement drifted into his brain, fragrant and everlasting, over the years. What a gift!

What a reminder to make those encouraging statements every day....and to trust the wisdom behind the words.

So, I remember Mrs. W's words, and I smile. Someday, her words will be true.

(PS--This is my 400th post. This is significant somehow.) 


LMJ said...

Never stop dreaming!! Someday will come!!

Your 400th post!!!!! wow!!! Congrats!!!

Joanna Jenkins said...

400th Post! Congratulations. That's huge!

And so is this post. If only more people took a moment to encourage positive actions, especially in our schools, what a difference it would make.

I'm guessing you were a great teacher that left an impression on your students. Way to go!


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, my nickname was the Fountainhead for awhile there! I loved this post, I had a teacher exactly the same in primary school and her words have never left me. Like LMJ said, never stop dreaming! Once day our dreams will be a reality :)

SamiJoe said...

Congrats on the 400th post!! And to you, for teaching that former student.
My, how it all comes full circle!

Ms. Moon said...

Good teachers can change you and make you believe in anything- any possibility, any future.
Really grand teachers are national treasures. I believe that.
What an awesome story.

Tracie said...

Congrats on all your posts! I love your way of being positive and forward thinking. My oldest will be a great lawyer someday. He loves to argue and always thinks he's right.

Pretty Things said...

What a fantastic post! And it is NEVER EVER too late for someday. There's no expiration date on Someday.

(Someday, unlike milk, doesn't spoil in the back of the fridge).

Daffy said...

It's not everyday that a teacher is allowed to see the fruition of their efforts. I try to remind my husband of this (who is also a teacher). He touches more lives in a single week than most do in an entire lifetime and while he will bear witness to less than 1% of the successes his students go on to accomplish because of his encouragement, guidance, support, motivation and teachings it does not make what he does any less important.

What an awesome blessing to have been able to read the submission of a former student!

Fabulous message too and congrats on your 400th post!

Robin said...

Happy 400....I feel like the gifts from our teachers come in many forms..and sometimes disguised as other things...a lot of my deep feelings of competence are from those who taught me...for me it was more from my college professors because I was naughty in high school..but the internal messages I took away from them are everlasting..and enduring..and I do the same as you do with my kids..oh you might be this or you may do that..and your soo good at that..!

Rebecca said...

That is so so so exciting. You helped make that happen. I hope you realize this and are VERY proud of yourself! That's truly a way, his words are somehow in a distant sort of way, your words. Without someone who believes in him (along with the talent to reach him and teach him the skills to put together a paragraph).....he would have never been published!!

Rebecca said...

(had to post again for this crazy tidbit)

((I remember really STRANGE things))

I substitute taught for about 10 years. . . .Almost at the start of that time, I spent about 2 weeks in a kindergarten classroom. One of the little girls was named A'diamond.

Fast forward 10 years........she was recently in the local newspaper talking about how the "po-po busted up all us kids havin' fun".........Translation 'The police came into a teen night club and had it shut down because there as gang activity'

I really wish I had more than 2 weeks with her. . .

Nikia, May and da kids said...

Right on!
Again I will say this today, kindness is never wasted. Who knows Nancy, he may remember your words just like you remember Mrs. W's words.

Kudos! teachers are not appreciated enough and underpaid too.


Bethany said...

Congrats on 400 posts.
Of course you should be published in the The New Yorker.
You're so right about encouragement and dreams and helping people project themselves into the future.
I realize that my mother could never SEE me past the day, and so I never learned to envision anything for myself.
Thank God for teachers though.
My college writing professor (published poet) once told me to submit one of my poems to The New Yorker. Course I got rejected, but STILL. It's that belief that carries you. I know just what you mean.

Unknown Mami said...

This post put a huge smile on my face.

Congrats on 400! You are significant in many ways.

erika said...

I totally agree with your teacher: you are a good writer, good enough to be published. I would so love to see an article authored by you in the New York Times. But I think that your words as a teacher and as a mommy have way more power than a published article.

Sonya said...

What a fantastic post this was! all of your posts are though..they make me laugh and think and laugh again.

I think it's so wonderful that you were able to see a former students published writing. I hope that we as your readers will get to see you in big print aswell..because you are that good and you have the ability to connect with us on all different levels.

Congrats ont he 400th post..I look forward to the next 400!

only a movie said...

Awesome post. I have an old-student post rattling around in my brain right now too.


blueviolet said...

Happy 400th! There is not a doubt in my mind that you're gonna hit it one day! You are too good to be kept a secret!

Stephanie said...

Beautiful post! I think for some of us, our "someday" will come when the kids are older. :-D

Corrie Howe said...

Congrats on our 400th post. I think you'll be published someday, just keep working at it. I keep reminding myself that I don't have to succeed this year. Writing is a skill I can use until the day I die.

And I'm really excited that you were able to see the success of one of your students. One day you'll see the success of your boys and their children too.

Cat said...

That's such an awesome motivational technique. You're an amazing writer and you have a true gift not just for describing experiences but for evoking the emotions that go with them.

mama-face said...

400 posts is significant. You are an amazing writer and woman. This story is so inspirational and I imagine a teacher's dream come true.

(Hey, I love the Sylvia Plath post. And your Ayn Rand comments slayed me; but I'm weird that way.)


Coby said...

That is AMAZING about your student!

What a great thing to say to your children - just to plant seeds and dreams about "someday" and "what if."

You are SUCH a gifted writer - your words are truly soul-touching.

nola said...

That made me, as a former teacher who tried so hard to honestly build up students' confidence, cry. Real tears.

It's amazing to me how important we are to some kids. I remember a particular letter I got from a student whom I thought I hardly knew, and she went on for pages about how through a really difficult time in her life I was the only person who really cared about and supported her, and how that continues to help her years later. I knew none of that - not her struggles (her mother was dying), not the impact of a few offhand comments (I had 165 students each year - no way can I remember what I said to all of them). It was a horrible year for me and I'm surprised I made it through, and to have the added benefit of helping her? Oy.

So many such things happen, and we rarely know the impact we have on people. Here's to hoping it's always positive!

Anonymous said...

There is an almost maternal pride when we see former students succeed. Congrats to you for his work! We are the sum of all of our influences and you had a part in that moment!

Congrats on your 400 posts! Please keep sharing the words with us. You brighten the days!