I have always has a passion for teaching. From the time I was a kid, I would fight to be the teacher when I played school with my friends. I wanted to be the one to write on the chalkboard and give my friends assignments. My love for English, too, has been unwavering: I’m still proud to say I hold the record for longest summer reading list at my middle school – one hundred and twenty-one books. It’s something that defines me, something that makes me who I am: the words, the books, the poems. The best teachers I’ve ever had were English teachers. They didn’t just stand up in front of us and lecture. They inspired us; they were students too.
Last April I went to Ireland as an extension of my sophomore year Irish Literature class. In visiting the W. B. Yeats exhibit at Ireland’s National Library, I was profoundly moved by the simplicity of the objects on display: his eyeglasses, a lock of hair, a portrait of him sketched by a friend.
What moved me most was his worn copy of Emerson’s Walden – the same book he touched, annotated, fell asleep over. This was the very copy which inspired him to write “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” the poem which, in Yeats’ own words, is “the only poem of mine which is very widely known.” It became real to me. Trying to explain this, however, was difficult. My teacher, in an effort to fill in the words I couldn’t find for myself, said “It’s surprising, to realize that. That he wasn’t just a poet. He was a student too: he read, never stopped learning.” That struck a chord with me: here were two people, a poet and a teacher, who had formed their careers around the desire to learn. I am like that. I learn because I love it.
In the back of the English wing at school, I am home. Amid the taupe and sage floor tiles, the rows of bland lockers and the curled, yellowing bits of newspapers and poems stapled to the crimson walls, I feel safe. I sit and read books I don’t quite understand while discussions I can’t quite hear float over and around me, the sounds a soft red interspersed with fluid tendrils of peach and lemon. I sit here and feel the wisdom of eighteen teachers saturating the air. I want to learn. I want to share. I want to teach.
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