There is Nothing More than This

A teacher is the carrier of a baton. Most of the time, we never know who grasps it as we pass by, but once in a while something happens and this morning  I woke up to the most amazing thing, messages on Facebook and comments here on WordPress that needed my approval. What?

I got an early Christmas — and the BEST — present today. Fifteen years ago I taught a young man — a kid — he was 17 — in a summer intro to literature class.  He had — at that point — never studied literature. He asked me outside the classroom if I thought he could do the class even though he’d just gotten out of high school. He didn’t just do the class. He fell in love with literature and with Goethe and then with German. His dad was German; his mom Mexican. One of HIS students found my blog post in which I had written about him as he was long ago and she wrote me this:

Hello, Ms. Kennedy,
Your former student, Prof. Schorsch Kaffenberger is my world history professor at a college I attend (I found this blog from a year ago by googling his name to find his office). Professor Kaffenberger must have been an extraordinary student for him to be remembered after 15 years. He’s one of my coolest and most supportive professors. 🙂

This student was exceptional in many ways, mostly in his courage and passion for learning, his curiosity and openness to all that was new. In that first class (I taught him in a few classes) he was shy and young, but stepped forward to read lines from Oedipus when no one else would. He took what I had to give and he ran with it. That his student describes him as “cool” and “supportive” means the world to me.

I might have always had other dreams and aspirations, but when I turned that corner in 1976 and became a teacher, all the other dreams and aspirations took second place. In my heart lives the hope that the people who grasped the baton handed me by my teachers carry it into the future with love, faith and passion. There is really no treasure worth more than this.


22 thoughts on “There is Nothing More than This

      • My friend teaches first grade. This is her tenth year. She is good but has many issues that teachers in my day could deal with but so many restrictions are placed on teachers now. I admire good teachers. They are super heroes.

      • I think teachers are super-heroes, too. And yeah; today it’s way more difficult to just TEACH. I think it’s really sad and a lot of talented people just leave the field.

      • It’s such a shame. When I was in school esp grade school the last thing I wanted was to make the teacher upset with me, my friend has been physically attacked by 6 year olds . No real consequence for the child . I blame it on poor parenting and a messed up board of education.

      • I was physically threatened by 200+ pound 20 year old over an A-. When I asked to have the kid removed from my class, I was told it was unfair to the student!!! We had “mediation”. I began walking to my car with pepper spray in my hand. What the kid did happened in front of the whole class and ANOTHER student beat up the abusive student in the college parking lot for “dissing the professor.” THAT student got suspended. That was one of the straws that broke this camel’s back.

      • Martha, it is so alarming that our youth is so out of control, no respect for authority and authority has been taken from the hands of the teachers, even the administrators have had their hands tied in dealing with violence and disrespect in schools…it’s a sad time. We will lose our most precious commodities, our teachers and our children who have no background in socially acceptable behaviour or the ability to control their emotions and anger. :/

  1. I only taught for a couple of years, but I’m still in touch with a couple of students who have done very well. They were the ones that “got it,” and, as you say, “took what I had to give and … ran with it.” It’s a very good feeling when you know you have positively changed the course of someone’s life. Congratulations!

  2. This is a beautiful post, and I know that there are many people out there who are grateful to you for being the good teacher you obviously were. I still remember those teachers who were more than just instructors; those caring people who touched my life with their passion.

    My Spanish professor, who was the head of the department, was one such. His love for his native Castilian was inspiring, and it set fire to the same love in me for that beautiful language.

    • I don’t actually have words for it, Lois! It just made me very, very happy. And also that the girl who Googled her prof and found it was so thrilled to learn about her professor when he was a student. I feel like I had an early — and wonderful — Christmas present. 🙂

      • Hello again, Mrs. Kennedy,
        Yes, I really found it thrilling to know Prof. Kaffenberger’s student life. His story about his “courage and passion for learning” gave me feelings of motivation to work hard in college. It’s such an inspiring story. Thank you so much. 🙂

  3. Martha, this is amazing and such an uplifting post. It brought tears to this part-time lecturer’s eyes! A proud moment for you, and thank you for sharing! While I haven’t seen new teachers yet, many students have gone onto into the rec and parks profession and are doing well!

    • It was a wonderful thing to experience. I’m grateful that the knowledge came my way — it is so random. And, honestly, I’m glad it is THIS student. I cleaned boxes out of my garage a couple months ago and happened on one of his projects from a class I taught, “Critical Thinking through Nature Writing” and was stunned by the depth and sincerity of his thinking. I kept the homework. 🙂

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