Friday, March 23, 2012
T is for “Teachers,” By Judy Brandemihl
2010 was a difficult year for our memoir class. One of several losses we experienced was the passing of our dear friend, Judy Brandemihl. So it is with some tenderness that I share this story today. Judy had some true insights into what makes this class special. I have often said that I learn more from my students than they could ever learn from me. Judy nailed it when she said “we are all teaching each other.”
I’ve led a fortunate life. It’s been packed with teachers from the beginning. Not all the teachers have been the kind you’d find in school. Many have been what I think of as “life’s teachers.” My parents and grandparents were the first, and I could write volumes about everything I learned from them. And there were siblings, playmates and classmates. Not everything they taught me was good, but they were my teachers just the same.
Well, I’ve had some terrific teachers along the way and I remember some bad ones, but hopefully, by the time I ran into them I was wise enough to know the difference.
Now I’m in my “golden years” and I know there’s still more to learn and here in our memoir class I’ve found not one teacher, but a room full of them. Yes, we have one designated teacher and a terrific one she is. With amazing patience she’s taught us to pull our memories from our subconscious and to capture them on paper for our children, or grandchildren and, with luck, our great-greats. What a thrill it would be to pick up a book, a treasury of stories written by your distant ancestor and to read about his or her life, all written in their own words. And if our descendents gain some kernel of knowledge or bit of strength from the tapestry of our lives, then we, too, will have become teachers, reaching out across time to pass on the treasure of wisdom.
In the meantime, we have the luxury of remembering and through our remembering, reliving our lives as well as those our fellow students. If our tales, some tender and some touchy, are lightly sprinkled with a tad of taradiddle, so be it.
We are all teaching each other. Each time we hear a story we learn what it was like to grow up in foreign lands, in different cultures, different neighborhoods, or only two streets over in a house like ours. Each life is different; the values taught by our parents were unlike those of the family a mile away. Our religions are varied and sometimes absent, and for some of us our native language was even different. But, in spite of this, we tarry here, in the same room, openly telling each other stories that reveal so much. Each one is a window into another’s past, into the life of yet a new teacher.