Down Darby Lane

A Few Good Teachers Pave Life's Path with Promise



COVID-19 imposed a culture of isolation on those of us paying close attention to staying healthy and alive. Being distanced from most of what we once took for granted slowly takes a toll. Friendships are different, contact with loved ones becomes a calculated risk, and business relationships are largely restricted to a cold computer screen – no handshakes involved. To make the COVID culture even more challenging, we're asked to sift through daily news about emerging variants – news that's sometimes contradictory from trusted sources who can't agree.

But much of America acknowledges the serious impact of Zoom-learning on school-age kids and, with an inconsistent patchwork of policies, they're back in classrooms. Unfortunately, the adaptations that kids of all ages have had to make over two formative school years could have long-term and unanticipated consequences.

I thought about this while slogging through my memories of high school – teenage years in which we unconsciously choose our own paths to follow. It's when social pressures and friendships are paramount. What happens in the halls of middle schools and high schools is outside the influence or protection of parents. Teens are on their own without a guidebook and, most likely, an uncertain sense of themselves. How they navigate this intense and important culture helps determine who they become after graduation day.

Teachers in this fraught environment accept a powerful role – both as educators and as guides for the hundreds of young students who pass through their classrooms each year. That schooling has been restricted to a computer screen severely limits the ability of good teachers to guide, influence, encourage talent, and inspire individuals. Both the teacher and the student lose.

Let me be personal. I wasn't one of the girls who fit in and, in the first years of middle to high school, served as the target for bullying by the 'cool' girls and their boyfriends. The halls were dangerous for me, and the girls' lavatory was a teen nightmare. My locker became the setting of theatrical pranks, and the clique of girls and guys was the jeering audience.

And that's where teachers appeared to map a safe route to my future self. It's not that I was ever a teacher’s favorite because I was an average and below student. Math, geography, history, and, God help me, Home Economics. All solid D's. So, along with feeling like gum on someone's shoe, I felt stupid. That was until I wrote an essay in an English Class taught by Mrs. Hunter (you always remember the names of the best and worst teachers). She wanted us (entrenched in a snowy Midwest winter) to write about a desert landscape. I went to the library, stared at a photo of the Sahara in a National Geographic, and wrote. Mrs. Hunter gave me an ‘A’ on my essay and asked when I'd visited that desert.

Mr. Korpela, the art teacher, gave me A's on my drawings and didn't once send me to the vice-principal despite my outrageous behavior in his class. Mr. Davenport, the music instructor, made me first chair in the viola section and didn't send me to the VP’s office when I dropped an upright bass down a flight of stairs (kindling). And, similarly, the speech coach and drama coach (Mr. Stoltman and Mr. Magnussen) endured hijinx worthy of detention and still awarded me starring roles.

These people balanced out Mr. Gregory who made me sit in front of his desk, pointed a ruler at me, and said, "You, Missy, are going to be a thorn in my side for the whole quarter. I am watching you."

Now, from the distance of decades, I look back at the debt I owe those high school teachers for letting me know who I was and what I could do. And their message reached beyond my affinity for the arts – to graduating from a university with highest honors in science-based disciplines, becoming a journalist, making music, becoming a bronze sculptor, and talking with you each week.

All that – from being in the physical presence of a few teachers during the most formative years of my life. Without their acute observation and compassion, I’m afraid to imagine where I’d be today - never having believed in my own worth. That kind of influence can't happen over a screen. The culture of education is far more than assignments, facts, memorization. Face-to-face talented educators intuit more about their individual students than the kids themselves know. The best teachers throw out a lifeline to rescue kids drowning in doubt and low self-esteem.

Dr. Robert Brooks, a noted expert on education, said it like this: "Teachers should never minimize the role they play in influencing students' lives. Hopefully, that role not only touches students' minds but also their spirits -- the way they see and feel about themselves for the rest of their lives."

As a victim of 'bully years' (that are never forgotten no matter how old we are), I know the trajectory of my life was changed because of the thoughtful intervention of a few dedicated men and women. I'm excited that kids will once again be in the right place to receive the gifts of exceptional individuals who choose to teach.




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Here’s a PS to my story – Years ago, I wrote a children's mystery book featuring four bullied and vulnerable kids. Together they solve the mystery of missing cats and defy the efforts of their school-yard tormentors. Take that, cool girls in my eighth-grade class! “Meow.org, The Catnapping Caper.” Thanks for sticking with me and meandering through my memory lane. And, please let me know about teachers who made a difference in your life! Email me at darby@darbypatterson.com!



Here’s this week's opportunity to enjoy work by other indie authors. Download for FREE!

"Dotty Dishes the Dirt" by Diane Ezzard - A laugh-out-loud cozy mystery novella!

Discover this new series of murder and mayhem. This charming cozy mystery will leave you scratching your head with its twists and turns.




Friends and Readers,

A note about most of us, for better and worse, in the Arts. I think we long to share our thoughts and creations - and without you, we are lonely. Imagine, you wrote a beautiful piece of music and no one but you (and perhaps your cat) ever got to hear it. Or painted a picture that no one else but you ever saw, or wrote a story that no one but you read. Sharing is everything for people in the arts and your support is fundamental to the continued creativity of all artists. So, Thank you! 

Hey! Check out this awesome article by popular columnist Ed Goldman - it's about moi! Also subscribe to his clever, witty and smart blog!  

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My Mountain Mystery

My book has gotten fab reviews on Amazon! I am so excited readers like the characters, the setting, the plot - minus lots of graphic violence. 

If you are fond of 'cozy' mysteries please read The Song of Jackass Creek. Check out Reviews HERE.

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Short Story Collection 

Twisted is - twisted! And Gypsy's Wedding - well, you just have to be there!  Click on the books to see more ... 

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Sample Amazon Reviews

This is an excellent writer!

Darby Patterson is truly a talented writer. She describes this little town sweetly without boring the reader with unimportant detail, and her descriptions are vivid. She also develops her characters fully through conversation and action so the reader becomes acquainted with the main players and can form pictures of them early in the book. Her characters' thoughts, interactions, and past activities combine to portray the culture of Redbud throughout the story, and the story itself is creative and holds surprises along the way. I too hope Ms Patterson continues to share her talents with us!

Sondra Jensen

Awaiting the next installment

An invitation to linger in this vanishing part of California which has so much history is writ on every page of this book. I've visited places like Redbud with a creek burbling in the background as gentle breezes sough through the pines and cedars. I've found them quaint and rich with fascinating local lore and history. Jesse, as publisher of the local weekly is very nicely sketched, the authors background as a journalist comes through clean and clear in developing him. This small California mining and logging town scrabbling to hang on, I liked very much as a setting. I wouldn't mind sitting down with Jesse and having a beer and help him solve his next mystery. The test of a good book is whether you'd be willing to read it again, later. This book passes that test and I can't wait for the next installment.

Jack Howard

 

Please let this be the first of a series!

Wonderful book; adult without being ‘R’ rated, complex story and well developed characters. The people of ‘Redbud’ ring true and, as a native Californian, the lumber, real estate and politics are spot on. I hope this is the beginning of a series because the author has created characters you want to know better.

D. Holmes

My other passion
Sculpting for bronze - See more HERE
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