Ever have a teacher that fundamentally shifts your view of the world and all it’s contents? A teacher that makes you think so much you can’t help but pull out your best work for them?
For me, her name is Lindsay Peters.
Lindsay was my high school literature teacher. She taught American Lit and Modern American Lit, along with writing classes. I remember the first time I heard about her, she had done something that got the whole school buzzing. She had walked by the groundskeepers as they were blowing the fall leaves away from the front of the school. She told them to stop, and asked them to help her move them into her classroom.
The class was reading Walden.
The kids got to class the next day and found themselves in a room full of autumn leaves. She encouraged them to play in them. And yes, she somehow connected the leaves to the lessons from Henry David Thoreau.
The desk sculpture the kids made in her classroom didn’t go over too well with the administration. She loved it. (Think: desks piled high in the center of the room.)
She was the first teacher I ever had who treated us like functioning adults. I realize that at 17 we weren’t quite there, but she set the bar as if we were. “Call me Lindsay. Mrs. Peters is my mother in law.” She would say. Setting the bar at that height made me want to reach it. Setting it there made me want to pass it.
The administration at the school began instituting roll call, which she thought was completely ridiculous. So, she would take roll by having us all sit in a circle at our desks – never in the same spot twice. “Move around!” She’d say. “You’re creatures of habit. Sit next to someone you don’t know in a different part of the room once in awhile.”
She would have a question of the day, and each of us would answer in turn. Once, when we were reading J.D. Salinger’s A Perfect Day For Bananafish, the question of the day was, “Go around the room and say all the nasty names and terms you can think of. I don’t mind if you swear.” That led to a discussion about name calling and bias.
One day, she asked, “If you could be a kid, or an adult, what would you choose and why?”
This is a moment that crystallized my view of myself forever more.
I was the only near-adult in the room who chose adult. When she asked me why, I said, as if the voice in my head that I had been hiding from my peers all this time took on a life of it’s own: “because kids don’t have a voice that anyone really listens to. I have things to say. When I’m an adult, I have a shot at someone actually listening.”
Without her, creating a safe, welcoming environment where I could speak my mind like that, I don’t know that moment and that realization would have ever come into focus.
There are so many more stories I could tell about her. The first time I ever heard the term ‘Civil Disobedience,’ the love of books and reading that gelled in those classes I took from her….
Thank a teacher. So many are absolutely inspired human beings. Where would we be without them?
And….drinks up to you, Lindsay. Thank you for changing my life.