Monday, February 1, 2016

Positive and Negative Impact

On the radio this morning, I heard an interview with a teacher and former student. They were discussing how a teacher could have a long lasting, positive impact on a person’s life.

The former student, now a well known international musician and entertainer, recalled how this teacher had literally pushed him onto the stage that very first time. The boy had been very shy and lacking confidence but the teacher had recognized the immense talent of the youth.

The host of the program asked others to call in who had similar experiences where a teacher had positively impacted the direction of their lives.

While it was a very uplifting and heartwarming interview and story, it got me to thinking about the negative impact that a teacher, perhaps inadvertently, can have on a student. A former creative writing teacher of mine immediately springs to mind.

Even after all these years since high school (and I’m not about to tell you how many), her words still sting. What she said actually stopped me from pursuing the education and career that I was steering towards, journalism and/or novel writing.

Picture this if you will; a naive 16 year old girl with a head full of romantic notions and fairy tale ending. I wrote a ‘love story’ for one of my class assignments. I was quite pleased with myself and thought it was pretty good.

The teacher’s one and only comment was, “You should stick to writing about topics that you know something about.” It was like a huge slap in the face! There was no constructive criticism offered on how to do better next time, no encouragement to try again.

I never took a creative writing course again and did not move forward with the continuing education that I had planned to. And for many years, I did not write ANYTHING, ever, stymied by the thoughtless comment of one person.

To be honest, this teacher probably does not even realize what affect her words had on me. I just hope that she did not dash the dreams and aspirations of any others along the way.

It's only in the last few years that I have rediscovered my love for writing. At this point in my life though, will it take me anywhere? I'm not sure, we'll have to wait and see. 


  1. When I was a young and impressionable teenager in high school I always wanted to be a lawyer. That is until I took a law class and had the most boring teacher ever who spoke only in monotone. Also I think I had the worlds worst math teacher ever because she always just made me feel stupid. It took me 4 years to get the 2 math credits I needed andhad the same teacher all the way through. ..I hated her...I agree that teachers will always have a direct or indirect affect on our lives especially when we are so young, impressionable and vulnerable.

  2. Yikes! That's horrible. My husband took a creative writing class and was chastised for making up words. The word he made up was wrought. Sigh. Some people should never teach.

  3. While I had nothing but positive experiences with teachers about my writings, I did have the same sort of experience you had with an art teacher. I had always been very happy doing artistic things. Making marks on paper could keep me happily occupied for hours until some teacher slapped a D on something I tried to draw, and never showed me a way to make it better. I never got back to my art for 40 years. Now I'm just having fun again and getting better at it all the time.