I can say in all honesty, looking back over my experiences, that without my teachers I would not be alive today. In fact, I probably would have died long ago. The persecution by my birth family was so severe I barely had the will or energy to keep on going at times.
Most of my teachers had no idea what was going on in my family’s house. How could they? A possibility of being caused bodily harm, verbal and emotional abuse were not subjects even discussed back then. And how would they have known? I did not have the words to tell them.
Some of my teachers seemed to sense something. I love them, every single one of them. A few of them tried to help. The first was a piano teacher who insisted on teaching me chord structure and voicing at a very young age. I had started taking piano lessons by the time I was three years old. My Mother uncovered my composition book and promptly fired the teacher.
The band director at Andrew Warde High School went out of his way for me. He mentored me into a spot as the Principal Flute of the University of Bridgeport Orchestra when I was a sophomore, as Warde had only a band. He enlisted the help of a teacher there as well. The teacher my Mother selected had me practicing Kulau exercises to perfection. But with the university teacher, before I knew it, I had learned the Mozart D Major Flute Concerto. I used it for the Connecticut Allstate audition and won a spot as first flute in their Concert Band. Mr. German then insisted I perform the Concerto for the school, which I did, to an astonished and enthusiastic response. I then went into the Girl’s bathroom and broke down sobbing. No one from my birth family attended the performance.
It was the first performance of Mozart playing Mozart in about two hundred years. My best friend, Allison, attempted to console me, to no avail.
And so my school life became my real life, while my family life remained a quagmire. Each day I would deliberately close the door on the darkness of the Fairfield house and strive to do my best at school.
I can give you many other examples of teachers who went out of their way for me. They did not know me personally, nor were they likely doing anything different for me than they did for all the other students. But it was because of their mentoring that I kept on going.
And so, when I teach, I am shot out of a cannon every morning. I am a substitute in the public and charter schools of our area, so I usually have a different assignment every day. I don’t know who I will work with, or what will happen. To complicate things, the schools of today are a far cry from the ones I attended. I frequently feel like a sojourner in a foreign land.
But that’s another story.
I just hope that I am able to give back in some small measure what was given to me. I hope that I can provide a nurturing word or validating response that will be of value to the students. I want to make sure I don’t leave anyone out…just in case there is one dealing with what seems like an unfathomable darkness at home…