thank you, susan kelly

we all had “that teacher.” the one that loved their job just a little too much. that took the education-of-our-youth speech too seriously. the one that forgot that high school students were not at the same level of their former college students. the one who edited your paper with a green pen–and then a red pen when the green one ran out–to the point where you thought Christmas exploded on your page. the one who found questions such as “is there such a geographic, physical Crimea River” entirely inappropriate.

wait, i think those last two only apply to mrs. kelly.

taking ap literature and ap world history as a junior in high school is overrated (this is a backlash from my overachiever days. i’m trying to take life one step at a time in comparison to the five-year plans i once laid out). taking both classes back-to-back with mrs. kelly was, in the universe of a 16-year old, hellish. we memorized WAY too much, and crammed a ton of facts and dates and names into our head in that year. nonetheless, that year was one of my favorite high school years…and her class has a lot to do with it. reading classics and talking about “watershed” historical events was pretty cool. thanks, mrs. kelly.

i couldn’t give you the prologue to the canterbury tales in the old english today (i don’t think i could do it back then, either), but one memorization piece that has failed to leave me is john donne’s “no man is an island” excerpt. i made it a goal to use it in as many papers as i could my first year of college, and the adage lurks in the back of my mind and peeks its academic head every now and again. in my recent readings for my ethics class, paul hiebert sparked the donne memory in his conclusions on a biblical worldview of otherness:

…first, it affirms the common humanity of all people. the scriptures lead us to a startling conclusion: at the deepest level of identity as humans, there are no others–there is only us (2008:289).

oh, susan kelly. i could have done without the green and red christmas tree editing on my paper. i could have done without the “however offset by a semicolon and comma” speech. but you did point out the redundancy of “throughout the entire novel.”  and you did introduce me to john donne. let’s see how that memory holds up…

no man is an island, entire of itself. every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. if a clod be washed away from the sea, europe is the less–as well as if a promintory was, as well as if a manor of thy friends of of thine own were. any man’s death diminishes me, because i am a part of mankind. and therefore: never send to know for whom the bell tolls. it tolls for thee.

she was “that teacher.” and i am better for it.


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