Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Red Ink and Laughter - A Teacher's Influence
If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching.8 If your gift is to encourage others, do it! Romans 12:7-8 (NLT)
How many people have you met in your lifetime? You probably can't count that high. Okay, how many can you say made a real difference? Chances are, out of a list of the top ten, there will be a teacher in there somewhere. Think back - who would you choose? What teacher affected you the most?
You'd probably not choose someone who laughed at you while scrawling a big red "F" on your essay. But that's exactly why I'd put Dr. Catherine Futral high on my list of women who've affected my life.
After a long time away, I had returned to Mercer University in Macon, GA to finish my undergraduate degree. I was majoring in business, because that's what my company would pay for, and was checking off the squares of required courses when I ran head on into Dr. Futral. A fixture for years at Tift College in Forsyth, she was teaching in the evening college after Mercer had absorbed her beloved campus. My goal was to get all my English courses out of the way as quickly and as easily as possible. Her goal seemed to be the destruction of the ecosystem by flooding the world with red ink.
To give you a mental picture of her wouldn't be hard. Think English teacher. That was harsh. Okay, think English teacher with a great smile and eyes that twinkled as she explained just how miserable she would be making our lives for the next 12 weeks.
She was a woman of grace, peppering her lectures with humor, and her comments on our work with wit. A committed Christian, and member of First Baptist Church of Forsyth, she'd often bring her faith experiences into her lectures. She'd quote Shakespeare, Faulkner, and the Psalms all in the same example of how to write a compelling paragraph. But when she evaluated your work - well, you'd better be ready to hear the truth.
I'll never forget one paper I wrote which received this comment: "Until the very last line of this paper, I felt that it was one of the best I had read. However, your thoughtless comma splice in the last phrase ruined it for me - and you." Beside that snippet she inscribed a large red "F".
Can I call that the gift of encouragement?
It was for me. My mission from that point on was to make Dr. Futral see the error of her ways. She kept trying to change my style, wanting me to use less punctuation - create shorter sentences - eliminate the passive voice. At one point, I ran a paper through a grammar checker program (new technology at the time) and handed it in. Her comment? "This isn't your work." "Oh yes it is," I replied, "and it's perfect." "It may very well be perfect as far as grammar is concerned," she shot back," but it is perfectly awful prose." You've never seen a smile leave anyone's face as fast as mine did. "You can do better," she said now smiling as she handed it back to me, "write it like David this time - from the heart."
Maybe she was from another time, when teachers could demand more and not worry about their student's self esteem. All I know is that she gave her best and expected ours in return. I think of her often and thank God for her. In a sense I'm still writing partly for Dr. Futral. She believed in me. Every time I write I remember, "from the heart."
Do you remember someone who encouraged you along the way? Someone who helped you become the person you wanted to be?
Let them know it.
They gave you their gift - pass it on.