One Teacher's Impact

by Grant Batchelder
@bachaelder

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week. While I have many ideas about the state of our primary and secondary education system in the US, I cannot fault the everyday teacher for those problems. Many teachers spend more time and out of pocket money to help their students learn and grow. I have had many great teachers and learned a lot. But it was one who really took the award for the person who impacted me the most.

In my 10th summer of life, I was enrolled in a children’s choir school so that my mother could have one week of rest. Now as a 9 year old boy, choir school did not sound like fun. I did however go and on that first day, I had fallen in love with music. The choir director, Dr. Fredrick George Jones II, was the greatest man I have ever known. After the choir school was finished, he sent my family an invitation to join the choir, which I did without hesitation. I grew up in that choir with Dr. Jones as my mentor. I eventually started to learn how to play organ and wanted to do what he did. Upon entering high school, I was assigned to his English class. He had spent most of my life opening my eyes to Bach, Mendelssohn, and Widor, but then he opened my eyes to Chaucer, Shakespeare, and poetry. It wasn’t till I was in my senior year of high school that I realized that I had modeled every part of myself after this man. He was truly inspiring and wonderful.

College started and we didn’t see each other as often. He had retired from the choir and I took a more active role in assisting the new choir director. I had an official college faculty member teaching me organ now and not a Ph.D. in English who just loved playing the organ. I respected Dr. Jones so much that I was terrified to play in front of him. If I knew that he was in the building, I would get so nervous that my fingers would fumble. When I decided that I no longer wanted to be a lawyer or full-time musician, I went through a temporary identity crisis. He was one of the first people I turned to. He was very supportive and actually pleased that I didn’t want to be a full-time organist (he said it was too much politics and would eat at me). We talked about everything else I liked to do. I decided upon doing a masters in Higher Education. A few short weeks later, he got sick and passed away. My strongest root was gone. I was lost. A new root in the form of my new residence life supervisor soon took that place, but I never did get one back as strong as Dr. Jones.

In thinking about teacher appreciation week, I keep thinking about Dr. Jones. If I never had him; I would never have found my love of liturgical music. I would never have loved poetry or literature in the same way. I would never have learned how to appreciate Neolithic sites and the mysteries that they hold. Our passions are tied to people, especially our teachers. Our teachers are our parents, grandparents, and mentors. I sometimes wonder what people who missed opportunities or ended up on the wrong path would have become if they had a teacher like Dr. Jones. It’s one of the reasons that I feel so strongly about Student Affairs. We have the ability to be that person for our students, or at the least, connect them to that person. In residence life, we are the first to see what is going on and are able to catch those who need help. In orientation and new student programs, we are able to introduce our students to the wide variety of support systems for our students. In conduct, we are able to say “this is it, you need help and we are going to get through this.” In all other areas of student affairs, we are able to connect with students to give them the reason to stay and keep going.

Passion. We must have passion to do this job. We must discover our student’s passions and unlock their potential. This is what a teacher should be. Thank you Dr. Jones and all other teachers that inspire passion in their students, you truly mean a lot to me and to your students.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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