One of Club 29’s longstanding traditions is to honor a teacher each month. That ritual conjures a different memory each month — the kindergarten teacher I adored, the high school teacher who kept putting me back on the path, the college English professor who challenged and inspired me. And as a parent, a new set of teacher-driven memories come about. Raymond is 14 now, navigating his first year of high school from behind a cloth facemask two days per week. But it wasn’t too long ago, at least in grown-up years, that I was reminded why we need to honor great teachers.
Perhaps, if you too are a parent of young children, you have been entertained by Samuel L. Jackson’s reading of Adam Mansbach’s book Go the [expletive deleted] to Sleep. If you are a parent of young children, you know which expletive has been deleted. Like me, that phrase has occurred to you many times. Many, many times.
One night in 2012 I was lying in bed with the 6-year-old tornado, and I was silently reciting that very phrase. The lights were out. The house was quiet. Only the tiny LED book light illuminating my Kindle suggested life persisted at Casa Streuli. I planned to read a chapter of Michael Connelly’s The Brass Verdict while said tornado spun down and fell asleep. I was settled. He was snug.
“Dad? What are you reading?”
Wait. What? What am I reading? This isn’t a question about Doritos in his lunch sack or whether a Corvette is faster than a Porsche 911? He is asking about a book? He is asking about a book!
“I’m reading a book called The Brass Verdict.”
“What’s it about?”
“Well, it’s about a lawyer who takes over all the cases of another lawyer who got killed, and he has to figure out what’s going on.”
The tornado stopped spinning and thought for a minute or two.
Then he said: “Who are the characters?”
“Well, the main character is a lawyer named Mickey Haller. He’s taking over for his friend who was killed, Jerry Vincent. And he has some helpers, and their client is a guy who runs a movie studio. His name is Walter Elliott. And there’s a detective named Harry Bosch who is trying to figure out who killed Jerry Vincent.”
“Huh,” said the much quieter tornado. “Well, what is the setting?”
The setting? Did he just ask me about the setting of a novel? He just asked me about the setting of a novel!
“It’s set in Los Angeles, and most of it takes place in a lawyer’s office and at a courthouse. Some of it takes place in a car, a Lincoln Town Car, because that’s where the lawyer, Mickey Haller, likes to do most of his work.”
“Oh. Hmmm. Can you tell me about the plot?”
The plot? Can I tell you about the plot? You bet I can tell you about the plot!
And I did, and the 6-year-old tornado fell asleep, and I read a chapter of The Brass Verdict on my Kindle with my LED book light. And then I leaped from the bed, skip-hopped down the hall and performed a saut de chat down the staircase in my hurry to deliver the good news to my wife. And I could have kept right on skipping to Ms. Andrus’ first-grade classroom and given her a gorilla hug, because when he entered Ms. Andrus’ classroom in August, he knew what kindergartners know: the alphabet, and a few monosyllabic words, especially if they were enhanced with an illustration.
By April, he wanted to read us to sleep, instead of the other way around. He wants to know what I’m reading and why I like it and imagines that he might like it too.
In May that year, during Teacher Appreciation Week, Raymond wrote thank-you notes on cut-out hearts for his teacher and some of her colleagues.
I am not planning to get out the finger paints. But you can be sure that years from now, when Raymond says, “Dad? What are you reading?” I am going to offer up a silent thank-you to a certain first-grade teacher.
It’s a lovely practice for our club to honor teachers. But we should honor those that touch our lives individually, too. We all have a personal teacher of the month.