A high school classmate of mine who also has a personal blog, wrote a post entitled “A Letter to My A.P. U.S. History Teacher.” Shoutout to Olivia. Check out her blog here: http://anchorformysoul320.wordpress.com/. Being someone who has always expressed themselves best through writing (I literally would write my parents essays and notes when I needed to explain something I did wrong), I found the idea very refreshing. This also gives me the opportunity to publicly thank a person who has shaped me as a writer and person.
Rockdale Career Academy holds some of my favorite memories from my high school years. RCA, per their website, is “an award-winning technologically innovative learning community, [that] ensures students achieve academic, social, and career success by providing a supportive environment.” In other words, it is a school where students can take classes in automotive engineering, public safety, graphic design and also offers core classes like Human Anatomy, Math, and English. My junior year, I was assigned to an English class at RCA with a teacher named Mr. Mays. As I was headed to meet him at Open House for the first time, I ran into my best friend, also in the class, who immediately expressed her concern:
“I just met Mr. Mays.”
“He seems so strict. I don’t know. I think his class is going to be hard.”
“Yeah… Like… He barely smiled.”
Man, first impressions are memorable.
But she was right.
Writing and English had always been easy for me – I loved it. I never really felt challenged in the subject – until I was enrolled in Mr. Mays’ class. We read books that I not only had never heard of, but in my opinion (at the time) were absolutely bizarre. I mean, imagine reading a book about a man who had a portrait painted of himself, and then was so obsessed with the painting and devastated by the idea of growing old, that he sold his soul to ensure that the painting grew old and his physical body did not. All while addicted to opium. Or, imagine reading a book about a family traveling for nine days with the decaying body of their beloved mother/wife in the back of a wagon in order to bury her in Jefferson, Mississippi per her wishes, while along the way almost losing the coffin twice. (SN: There is so much more I would love to say about how incredible these books are, but I don’t want to give them away for anyone who is interested in reading them. Their titles are The Picture of Dorian Gray and As I Lay Dying, respectively.) Long story short – they were weird and challenging. Which is exactly what I needed.
As someone who actually loved writing and reading, English was one of my favorite, and easiest subjects. But for the first time in forever, I started getting essays with red marks on every single page. I stared reading books that couldn’t easily be analyzed. And man were the pop quizzes brutal. But was so amazing is that Mr. Mays was able to bring a class full P.C. students down a few notches and then force everyone to be better than we ever thought we could be. So Mr. Mays, thank you.
And to all the teachers who shape, encourage, and push all the youth to be the best version of themselves they could be, THANK YOU. If I could personally give you each a pay raise, I would. You deserve it and so much more.