Mrs. Levy. Mrs. Williams. Miss Tomsu. Miss Rice. Mrs. Hendrickson. Mr. Anderson. Miss Conover. Mr. Reuter. Miss Richmond. Mr. Sal. Miss Saruya. My elementary school teachers.
Yesterday I swam 71 (short) laps in the hotel pool, a little birthday ritual I started around ten years ago. One lap for each year, trying to recall something from that year while swimming. A slow-motion version of my life flashing before my eyes.
Not an easy undertaking, but I found that my elementary school years were most easily marked by remembering the teachers I had in each grade. And though the first of them was from 66 years ago, I had no trouble remembering them. That’s the power of a teacher. .
I often feel like I’m a preacher without a congregation, an author without a readership, a musician without an audience, a politician without a constituency, self-proclaiming myself in fields where I haven’t wholly paid my dues. But for most of my life, I have been a teacher with students. As the years ascended in my swimming ritual, some of them continued to be marked by memorable teachers and some from the places and people I taught. In my Facebook birthday greetings, a large portion of the people were my Orff students and their greetings were of the “Dearest teacher” sorts.
Of course, I’ll keep writing, playing music, preaching as I do and keeping politically involved, all of which find their way into my teaching and widen the narrow definition of “music teacher.” But when it comes to identifying with one identity, as we human beings like to do to sort and place ourselves in the ecology of professions, I will happily claim the dignity and delight of “teacher.”
And perhaps someone in the future will be swimming the birthday laps of their years and my face will appear before them for one of them. And that would make me happy.