Some time ago, my daughter, Jessica, who had just finished a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater studies at the University of Illinois and was planning to get a master’s degree in education to teach, asked me if I was going to post anything on Facebook about Teacher Appreciation Week. I said no, I hadn’t planned on it.
Before long, though, I agreed on a post asking any of my former students to tell me how they were doing (school, career, family, etc.). Maybe share some memories they had about my class — good, bad or indifferent.
I said what I missed about being a teacher was the students, being in the classroom and having discussions about works of literature, current events and seeing student journalists covering school news fairly and objectively. The red tape and bureaucracy? Not so much.
I had taught many English and journalism students who were great writers and thinkers and who had gone on to teach, write and do well for themselves in their chosen fields. So if I received anything, I expected it would be well said. And it was.
One of the funniest responses came from Courtney Brooke, who told me she thought of my dad every time she scratched her ear. I couldn’t imagine what kind of a story I’d come up with that reminded her of that and had to ask. She replied that I’d told the class that after a car jack had slipped from his hand when he was changing a tire and cut off the tip of his finger, my father was more upset about not being able to scratch his ear with the finger than he was about losing it. I remembered that.
So you can imagine some of the stories I must have told during class or some of the things that happened during our free-wheeling discussions. There were several of them. The recollection that really caused me to laugh came from Celeste (Glende) Pleadwell.
She wrote, “Ha! Here is my favorite ‘Celeste rolling in late comment’:
“Mr. Elliott: ‘You’re late.’
“Me: ‘I’m sorry.’
“Mr. Elliott: ‘Is that a noun or a verb?’
“Mr. Elliott, I truly am sorry for being late for class everyday. You’ll be happy to know that I always show up to work at least 10 minutes early now. You were always one of my favorites. Thank you for always challenging us to think outside the box.”
She told me in a message recently that I would always yell out the window as she was running to class. Adam Wilson, who was in the same class and who also responded on Facebook, still teases her about that, she says.
I don’t remember yelling out the window, but I undoubtedly did. And I don’t remember if I ever told her that in the phrase “I’m sorry,” “sorry” is neither a noun nor a verb, but an adjective. I hope we both knew.
I don’t think I ever had her do push-ups for being late to class, as some of the other respondents recalled I did. Celeste is working on the West Coast as a director of photography, has been married for a few years to Stephen Pleadwell and is the mother of “a beautiful girl” who must be about 7 now.
My attention perked up when she said she’d married a Pleadwell. When I saw the name, I immediately thought of Jeff’s Pirates Cove on the Pacific island of Guam that we always visited when I traveled to Iwo Jima with Military Historical Tours and the Iwo Jima Association of America for the annual “Reunion of Honor” ceremony.
Owner Jeff’s last name is Pleadwell. I hadn’t heard the name before I met him. The last time I was there a few years back, he had asked me to have my picture taken with him looking out of one of the Japanese World War II bunkers just off the shoreline of Pirates Cove because both of us happened to have white hair and beards.
When I told Celeste about this seemingly obscure reference, she said, “That’s my father-in-law.”
What a pleasant surprise! Hearing from Celeste and all the others was refreshing, knowing that in spite of all the trials and tribulations of life today, many of my former students had gone on to successful careers and there is still hope in the world.
I truly appreciated my daughter prodding me to reach out to them to hear what they had to say about their school years, my classes and how they are doing today. And I’m always amazed by how small the world really can be when you reach out to people.