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Shout-Out to Teachers on World Teacher Day

Teachers. I like them. The good and the bad. The exceptional and the mediocre. Even the really bad ones who let my fellow sixth grade classmates climb the rope to the gymnasium ceiling without any safety precautions whatsoever. And the chemistry teacher who spent three class periods to show us Waterworld to teach us about Kevin Costner with gills. Or the ones who weren’t really good at teaching but were enthusiastic and liked reading more than anything and who turned me on to Richard Wright and Cormac McCarthy before I knew how to drive.

I like teachers. I really do. It’s a hard job, no matter what the grade. Kids cussing or fighting or running in the hall. Kids passing notes. Kids texting. Or sleeping. Kids doing their homework while they sit in front of you, scribbled words stretching out into whatever. It’s a bad job.

It’s a good job. It’s one of the best. Kids sounding out new words and learning their meaning. Students falling into a story like falling in love. Kids running up to tell you in a breathless, urgent paragraph all that happened in the very last chapter. I’ve taught. I was okay. I wasn’t any big shakes. Nobody brought me any apples. Or did they. I can’t remember. I was nervous most of the time. How do you get nervous about teaching Tolkien? Tell me. I’d like to know. I know teachers. Lots of them. I’ve spent a lot of time in classrooms. I’ve been inspired. I’ve been let down. I’ve been tempted to walk out in protest. I’ve fallen asleep, once, during a Shakespeare lecture. I’ve enjoyed the company of teachers. As they’ve paced and gripped their lecterns and rendered story arcs on whiteboards and chalkboards. As they’ve lost their trains of thought. And lost their shit over a misplaced modifier. As their faces glazed into a blank mask of unbelief when someone said, “That books sucks.”

I like teachers. They occasioned me to go for the big one. They told me, “Shit man, I don’t fuckin’ know!” I’ve gotten drunk with them. Ate with them. Learned from them. Implored them. Probably longed for a couple of them. Told them to eat their hats. Possibly, I taught them a thing or two. There have been times, even, that I’ve taught myself. That’s a nice thing. Opening a book and reading it and going, Ah, now I get it. I like teachers. Maybe I love them. For encouraging my friends and me to write. To teach us how to do it good. To teach us how to do it well. Not to give it up. For telling us our stories have value. For telling us when they don’t and should be chucked in the dustbin. For all of that. And for all of that, I thank you all.

EDMUND SANDOVAL lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in The Minnesota Review, The Common, Fourteen Hills, and The Mud Season Review, among others. He earned his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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