Friday, August 5, 2005

Mehr Licht

It has taken me three days to formulate the words for this post. And even now I don't know where to begin. So, I guess I must begin at the beginning...

A little less than a year ago, right after fall semester began, I posted three different times on something highly personal to me, my education. Ray Charles and a Week That Changed My Life, Methods of Higher Education, and Methods of Higher Education: II, revealed how I feel about public education, how important education is to me, and both how I had changed my major and had found my mentor.

Three times a week for an entire academic year I would walk out of a classroom, spinning with ideas, curiosity, and motivation. Some of my most heart felt and important posts spawned from moments and questions within that English classroom.

I found Kay Walter by chance, a very lucky chance. I randomly selected an English 102 professor. One day I walked into Walter's classroom, was scared to death of failing and yet too stubborn to not accept the challenge. One day not long after that I walked into her office and simply asked if she always knew from the moment she started college that English was her field and teaching was her calling. That was the day I changed my major. That day on her office door I read "mehr licht" and that was the day I finally understood Goethe when he said, "every step is an end and every step is a fresh beginning." That was the day I realized Special Ed isn't my calling in life and if I want to be truly happy, I have to do what I love, what I'm good at, and what comes naturally.

The only problem with such a philosophy is Special Ed is what I love, it comes naturally, and with time I guess I have become pretty good at it. The day I decided to change majors was not the day I chose History as a major. It was up in the air for a while. Considering Political Science, Sociology, American Studies, History, and yes, English, it wasn't until much later that I decided History was where I belonged. Happiness comes not just in doing what you love, loving what you do, and being good at it, it comes in devoting yourself to what you do and choosing that happiness. I could never have been happy in the Special Education field because I would have always felt it was forced upon me and expected of me.

A friendship grew as more and more I realized my English teacher had something amazing to instill in me. There are lessons you can't learn in the classroom. There are lessons you can't find in books. There are lessons you have to learn in order to succeed. Of course I learned how to write a three-part thesis, how to "let the force of [my] ideas be the power of [my]words," and I even suffered through and learned to love Sir Walter Scott. I learned that comments on a graded paper mean something, just as comments about inhumanity do. I learned that fifteen hollow readings of poems ranging from Tennyson to Dickinson mean little in comparison to one sincere reading of "Invictus."

I'll never again forget James Fenimore Cooper or take for granted a serious talk about Percy Shelley. I may never understand the fundamental difference between affect and effect or why Virginia Woolf cannot be included in good American literature, but for the rest of my life I'll know how to spell Hemingway and I'll know why Oscar Wilde wrote his most important works.

Most importantly, over the last year I have learned that there are people in our lives, for whatever reason, that come at the exact moment when we need them. They stay with us for as long as they can, but reside in our hearts for lifetimes. There are people who want to guide us, who know things we have yet to learn, who will, if we let them, lead us. In a criticized and often ridiculed public education system, there are those, if only a few, who stand out and make education worth saving.

In the words of Philip Booth, "whatever your route, go lightly toward light." Fort Smith, Arkansas now awaits an English teacher, a mentor, and most importantly a friend. My time at Idaho State University would have been incomplete without this chance encounter and my life, well I guess that's something only time will tell.


Nick Speth said... this is the famed English 102 that had you thinking about a different subject every day? Well I don't know about your classwork, but you can let Ms. Walter know that her classes produced some fine writing on the ol' World Wide Web.

Nick Speth said...

By the way, if you'd like some interesting reading, check out Victor Hanson's latest here

Tara A. Rowe said...

Yes indeed, the famed English 102 class. Our classwork was interesting-- we got to send postcards to people who had helped us in our academic success, occasionally we got off on random topics like Cat Stevens, and I'd say my writing abilities benefitted greatly. Not sure how much I've really grown to appreciate Sir Walter Scott, but it did help me in the bloggin' business.

Who is this Victor Hanson?? Thanks for the link, Nick.

Nick Speth said...

Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, and a regular contributor at National Review, Commentary Magazine and the Chicago Tribune. He also happens to be one of the greatest military historians alive. I really liked his thoughts on Hiroshima, and since I managed not to mark its aniversary with a post, I thought I'd at least suggest to you something worth reading about it.