National Teacher Appreciation Day on May 3 was a nice reminder of the many individuals who generously shared their wisdom and knowledge with me. One gentleman in particular comes to mind. In charge of my high school Advanced Placement English class, Dr. Graham taught his students about the ups and downs of creative writing. Under his guidance, we had opportunities to stretch our talents as authors, poets and playwrights without the kind of reprisal that might discourage beginners. His feedback was always positive even when it was negative. I realize that now even though I did not always appreciate his candor back then.
Still, he must have seen some promise in my abilities. Otherwise, why pull me aside after class one day to rebuke me for his perception that I was not trying harder? We had just viewed (and then discussed) a video about James Dickey and his almost ruthless commitment to tweaking and rewriting Deliverance. As I recall, Dr. Graham felt that I could only be a great writer if I promised to fully dedicate myself to the process.
Jump ahead several decades and most of my colleagues will describe me as highly disciplined, goal-oriented and extremely motivated to achieve. Nevertheless, I revisit Dr. Graham’s words often and mentally thank him for the message. I would love to tell him in person but do not know how to reach him. I was told that he left teaching to become a real estate broker.
He’s right that discipline is hugely important in terms of meeting deadlines, letting go of ego long enough to know when something needs improvement and being motivated enough to get started in the first place. He helped his students develop self-awareness about the ongoing pains and joys of the creative process and gifted us with the promise that each new word is a wellspring to something good. To Dr. Graham and other teachers who have inspired and led, many thanks and keep up the great work!