Wings

The previous posts have been on the topic of memorable teachers and whether or not this is something that can be taught. This final post is for the simple pleasure of reading, a story that soars beyond the educational spectrum I covered. This is a story of worry, protection, fear, flight, and freedom - a bird's-eye view perspective on parenthood.

0830 hours – Washington Intelligence Department (W.I.D)

The elevator door chimed as it slowly opened, the base hanging a couple inches below the fifth floor. She ducked her head as she stepped up, still knocking it due to a miscalculation of height. She massaged her forehead and then proceeded to her father's office on the east wall of the W.I.D, skirting the tables clustered in the centre to reach it. Each table seated four workers, each typing away on laptops. Sorters from the basement mailing room scuttled around the stacks of papers surrounding the hive of workers, passing out documents for reading or filing. A large window, the length of the back wall, was covered with wooden panels – the result of hurricane winds. She walked through a cloud of cigar smoke before reaching her father's office, which looked unused.

“Where's my father, Clive?”

Lieutenant Colonel Masterson, Clive, her father's partner and a US Marine, sat across from her father's office, filing paperwork away in the shredder. He glanced at her over his glasses, “What are you yelling for, Avery? Come on over here.” His thick Texan accent, coupled with his word choice and attire, made him a clichéd western ranger – with his blue jeans and plaid, all he needed was a stetson to complete his ensemble. “He just went into Shelia's office. You're to go in when you're ready,” he said, once she'd gotten closer.

His eyebrows raised upon closer inspection of her attire, though he remained silent. Avery wore dark green, military coveralls, with the American flag sewn onto the left shoulder. Her blue garrison hat sat lopsided on her head as she looked at the twin oak doors leading to Shelia's office, “Will you come with me, Clive?”

“Ah, shucks little lady, I'd be honoured,” he said, tossing the leftover papers onto one of the piles surrounding his office. If there was a desk in there, it was hard to tell.

***

Shelia, a slender woman in her early forties, answered their knock. Aside from not wearing any shoes, she wore a blue pencil skirt and dress jacket, white blouse, and black tie – a standard air force uniform. She stepped aside to let them in, then slammed the door, dropping a life-sized portrait of herself off the wall.

The room looked like an antique library with shelves lining most of the room. Shelia headed to her mahogany desk and sat in front of Bill who was sitting on the window ledge. His legs were extended and crossed at the ankles, while his arms were crossed below his chest. Aside from wearing white dress pants, he wore his uniform jacket which was buttoned to the collar. Medals lined the top of his jacket's left breast pocket, while an aiguillette hung around his left shoulder beside the epaulette. He looked at Avery as she came in, the light in his eyes fading as they rested upon her attire, “It's true,” he said.

Avery glared accusingly at Shelia, who responded with a sheepish look.

“I had the right to know you joined the junior flight team, Avery, even if it was after Shelia signed your application,” Bill snapped.

Clive remained silent for he knew Avery had disobeyed her father, and didn't want to intrude. Bill looked at Avery until she directed her gaze elsewhere.

“I still don't understand why it's so wrong, Bill,” Shelia said, breaking the silence.

“Like I told you Shelia, it's too dangerous.”

“Bull,” Avery finally said, placing her hands on her hips. “It's because I'm a woman.”

“It's because you're not ready,” Bill snapped.

Avery rolled her eyes, “How would you know?”

“The answer's no, Avery,” he said firmly.

“She wants to fly, Bill. Can't you let her have her wings before she takes a one way trip to Salzburg,” Shelia interjected, looking sheepish again when Bill directed his anger toward her.

Bill moved to the desk and leaned in, “This is because of the full custody agreement isn't it, Sheila? You'll do anything to spite me because you believe I took Avery from Lani,” he whispered.

Shelia leaned in until their foreheads were an inch apart, “No, Bill, I knew my sister. She cared more about flying than she did about Avery. But, Avery knows what's important and flying won't change that. Let her prove she's not Lani.”

“I told you not to interfere,” Bill said, slamming his hands on her desk, causing Clive to jump.

“You told me not to tell her about Lani. I gave her my signature, Bill, nothing more.”

Bill backed away from the desk, leaving his sweaty hand prints on the surface. Both Avery and Clive showed their confusion, unable to comprehend the situation. Clive looked longingly at Bill for an answer, but Bill gave none. Clive may have lived with them since Avery was five, but Bill never mentioned the circumstances surrounding Avery's mother.

Bill turned back to Avery and hesitated, “Okay.”

Avery ran over, wrapped her arms around him, and squeezed hard.

“It really does go against my better judgment,” he said, watching her leave.

“She'll be fine," Clive said, slapping him across the back, as he too watched her leave.

1300 hours – Two weeks later

The belly of the plane glistened on the water's surface as it flew overhead. Its green body looked black in front of the sun, while its passengers were mere silhouettes. The pilot, a man in his mid thirties, kept his eyes on the flight path as Avery adjusted her helmet.

“This is amazing, Rusty,” she said, looking out the left window. The land nearby looked like patches on a quilt, the different colours and textures merging together, while cotton clouds floated ahead of the plane's wing.

“I'm glad you're enjoying yourself,” Rusty said back through his helmet radio.

The hum of the plane's engine choked for a minute, and the plane dropped a couple of feet. Avery whooped with excitement, feeling the rush of the drop in her stomach. Thinking it was a planned drop to boost her excitement, Avery went back to looking at the land while Rusty took to looking at the console.

“Avery, I want you to eject,” he finally said.

“Why?”

“I want you to have some real practice,” he said, not taking his eyes off the console.

“Okay, where do you want me to go?”

“When I give the signal, I want you to eject and head for those trees,” he said, nodding his head to the right.

Avery looked at the green specks to her right, and then the back of Rusty's head. She was just about to ask where he'd meet her, when he raised his gloved hand and gave the thumbs up. She immediately ejected, waited until she was at a safe distance from the plane before deploying her green military chute, and then directed it toward the trees. She turned her head just as the plane hit the water, her mind fully aware that it was no longer a practice run. She frantically searched the sky for Rusty's chute as she continued to drift inland. By the time she'd turned her head back to the wooded mountain below, she had drifted right into a white oak tree.

1600 hours – The W.I.D.

The television echoed the news already traveling through the department. Bill sat with his head between his hands, while Clive and Shelia stood on either side.

“...Commander Ratter, head of the junior flight team, announced that Commander Arthur Rust was flying the plane when it went down earlier this morning. Flying on a routine training mission, Commander Rust and his student-pilot Avery Stanford, daughter of the renowned fighter pilot Commander Stanford, were said to have lost altitude before crashing into the lake. The incident is under investigation and more information is forthcoming.” The reporter paused for a moment, as one of the technicians handed her a piece of paper, “This just in, the remains of Commander Rust's body were just recovered—”

Sheila turned the television off, and escorted Bill into her office.

“Bill, if there's anything I can do,” she said, sadness wavering her voice.

Bill remained silent, trying to contain his anger toward Shelia. At the end of the day, he still could have said no to Avery.

“At least take the rest of the day off, and take Clive with you.”

Bill shook his head and placed it between his hands again. His body shook uncontrollably as he choked on his own breath. Clive came up behind Bill, gently rubbed his back, and then slapped him. “C'mon bud, let's get outta here,” he said, sadness evident in his own voice.

1600 hours

Avery dangled from the tree, her parachute mangled in the branches above her head. She looked up, trying to pull the chute away. The wind swung her forward, the fabric slowly fraying under the added pressure, as a branch creaked above her. Frantic and starting to hyperventilate, Avery pulled her helmet off to let the wind brush across her face, chilling her flushed cheeks. She focused her breathing as a couple came hiking up the trail below her.

“Hello,” she called.

The woman shrieked and Avery apologized. Avery explained what had happened and Horatio, the woman's husband, immediately fell back upon his experience as a soldier and offered to help. Under the constant, concerned murmurings of his wife Candice, he hoisted himself up onto one of the lower branches and handed Avery his pocket knife. In her rush to get down, Avery cut the rope before he could get off the branch below her, taking him with her when she dropped. She landed onto of him, making Candice shriek again.

“No harm,” Horatio said, as Avery apologized for her mistake. She brushed the hair from her face before removing herself from his back. Horatio accepted her outstretched hand and stood, brushing the moss off his pants. Slightly wet and muddy, Horatio and Avery headed down the mountain, followed by Candice who was chatting obsessively, chatter often carried away by the howling wind.

1800 hours

“Mr. Stanford, this is Doctor Monroe at Sycamore County Hospital–”

Clive, who'd been closest to the phone when they'd entered the apartment, remained silent.

“I'm calling about your daughter who was brought in for an examination by two hikers.”

In his excitement, Clive hung up without saying anything. He grabbed a hold of Bill before he escaped to the bathroom, and told him the news. Bill bolted from the building, leaving Clive to lock up, and eventually hail a taxi.

1930 hours

Avery was sitting on the side of the bed when Bill came in. The doctor had finished checking her over, and finding nothing wrong, had gone to get the release forms, giving Bill the chance to be alone with Avery. He went and embraced Avery, holding her close to his chest, caressing her matted black hair. Avery, appreciating the warmth of her father's body against her own, wrapped her arms around his waist.

“How's Commander Rust,” she said.

“He's fine.” Avery sensed her father's hesitation, and buried her face further into his shirt, taking in its Old Spice smell. He placed his head on top of hers as she tightened her grip around his waist. She sobbed into his shirt, the water soaking the fabric.

“I don't want this to stop you from flying, Avery,” he said, as he kissed the top of her head.

Avery didn't respond, but pulled away for a moment; enough time to wipe her eyes and see Clive standing in the door frame. She extended her arm to him, bringing him over into their embrace.

“I have one request then, dad,” she said into their shirts, as she buried her head again.

“Name it,” Bill said.

“I want you to fly with me from now on.”

Bill didn't respond, but loosened his grip for a moment, allowing Avery to tighten her grip.

Photo Credit: Jan Meijer


SAMANTHA MEIJER

Samantha is an avid reader and writer, who finds relaxation in the imaginary worlds she creates. Her non-fiction work has been published for the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and she has won awards for her short fiction in the annual Remembrance Day Legion contest. When she's not writing, Samantha is sketching famous or familial people.

CWF | Royal Canadian Legion

The General Consensus

Start time: 13:16   End time: 19:30

Those who've seen Boy Meets World will know that Mr. Feeny was a strict, disciplined teacher who pushed his students to their greatest potential because he knew they had it in them. He took the time to understand their capabilities, and discover something in each of them, often before they discovered it in themselves. 

Like many teachers I've come to appreciate, Mr. Feeny was someone that cared deeply about his students, and garnered the respect deserved. Through my time in school, and through this process, I have learned that teachers are memorable for the things they do for their students, and usually those acts go unnoticed until after the student realizes where their accomplishments have spawned from. It's when the student recognizes they couldn't have made it as far as they did, without the help of a particular teacher who made an impact on their life.

It's the teachers that left something of themselves – whether that be a lesson, or some small act of kindness – that makes them memorable. It's the teacher who:

 The original and the drawing of my grandfather

The original and the drawing of my grandfather

  • gave me their copy of the class photo when I was sick, even though it was their only tangible memory of the class they taught that year.

  • taught me how to spell because; it's something that seems simple, but something that I still find myself using. Funny, even after all these years, I'll use bunnies, eat, carrots, and, usually, something, else, before the letters alone.

  • helped me pass religion class when they weren't even my teacher

  • helped bring my drawing abilities out onto the page – abilities I didn't even know existed.

Among others, these are the teachers who left their mark in more ways than one, and are worth remembering because they've had a major role in shaping who I am. They're the teachers who learned from the best, and have proven that being memorable can be taught, even if it's an inadvertent action.

It's the teachers that go above and beyond, reach out, and take the time to listen that are worth remembering; because they have chosen to care about their students, get to know their abilities, and help them strive for excellence. Without these teachers, there wouldn't be lessons worth learning even after one's left the classroom; for these are the teachers who'll continue to teach us, the teacher's we'll never stop learning from as long as they remain memorable in our minds.

For more examples of memorable teachers check out: The Dead Poet's Society's, and Mr. Holland's Opus.

Photo Credit: Sam Meijer                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Video Credit: Disney-ABC Domestic Television (Boy Meets World)


SAMANTHA MEIJER

Samantha is an avid reader and writer, who finds relaxation in the imaginary worlds she creates. Her non-fiction work has been published for the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and she has won awards for her short fiction in the annual Remembrance Day Legion contest. When she's not writing, Samantha is sketching famous or familial people.

CWF | Royal Canadian Legion

The Student Perspective

 On my quest for answers

On my quest for answers

My quest for answers continued with garnering insight into the student's opinion of what makes a memorable teacher. It led me to an Algonquin College alumnus, who wished to remain anonymous. Their experiences with the teachers during their own educational journey brought new meaning to the idea of being memorable.

Q: What makes a memorable teacher?

A: A memorable teacher is defined by compassion and a desire to help.

[...] A memorable teacher will set up a connection with the students, which comes from a genuine desire to help students succeed in life.

A memorable teacher will go out of their way to make a lesson easy to understand, and easy to remember — [...] the purpose of school is to learn, but this is useless if the student merely forgets everything later.

A memorable teacher is someone who makes a genuine, positive difference in their students' lives.

Q: Has it changed the way you are, the way you learn, the way you experience life?

A: I'll answer this with an example. The one subject I often struggled in was math. I always worked hard and never failed, but I always struggled, and grew frustrated with myself and my abilities. One year, a math teacher noticed my frustrations, and went out of her way to help me. She would offer extra help at lunch, frequently encouraging me to attend. We would work on practice problems and formulas, she would analyze past tests with me, and overall, did everything she could to help. She once changed the class seating arrangement, and told me she intentionally sat me next to the best student in the class, who could help me with assignments I didn't understand. I ended up passing with an excellent mark, which simply wouldn't have happened if I didn't have her as my teacher. [...] It was a great feeling to have someone go out of their way for me, and I was very lucky to have her.

Q: Can being memorable be taught?

A: I certainly believe strategies can be taught to help teachers learn how to go above and beyond in helping their students. But it takes a very special person to truly be a memorable teacher. At its core, I believe it's all about truly wanting to help, and setting out to make a difference in the lives of students; and that can't necessarily be taught.

Photo Credit: Kim Meijer


Samantha Meijer

Samantha is an avid reader and writer, who finds relaxation in the imaginary worlds she creates. Her non-fiction work has been published for the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and she has won awards for her short fiction in the annual Remembrance Day Legion contest. When she's not writing, Samantha is sketching famous or familial people.

CWF | Royal Canadian Legion

The Teacher Perspective

Education is not a vessel that needs filling but wood that needs igniting - Plutarch

My quest for answers started with teachers from the Ottawa Catholic School Board. I started with the general question I wanted answered, and then narrowed it down in order to see if there was any correlation between their memorable teachers and their own teaching methods. This is what I discovered.

What made a memorable teacher for you?

Many answered that their memorable teachers were those who respected their students, and garnered the same respect in return through their teaching methods. They were occasionally strict, challenged their students, and had firm expectations for their class. However, they were also passionate about what they taught, teaching with love and joy for their subject. They infused humour into lessons, and engaged students in genuine conversations. They believed their students could succeed, and cared enough to bring them to this point, often reinforcing their love for a particular subject. They revealed how rewarding learning could be, and taught their students to appreciate their work, their life, and their words.

Does it have an impact on the way you teach?

DSC_0848.JPG

"When I first became a teacher I was told to be tough and not to smile 'before Christmas.' If I didn't act mean and look mean then I would have no classroom control [...] I am not mean, and if I ever go a day without smiling then I am not being  true to myself [...] My favourite and most effective teachers were good because they were true to themselves. As a teacher you have to figure out who you are and use that to your advantage"  - Cheryl Ellis.

Some came to recognize traits and qualities in the people they respected and tried to emulate those in their own teaching, while others were impacted by the memory of how they had always wanted to be treated as a student.

Did it have an impact in your reason behind becoming a teacher?

All of the answers regarding this question depended on the individuals perception of how their teachers impacted them. For some, it was the idea of feeling that they could do better if they had the chance, while others took what they learned and carried that into all aspects of life, or knew they always wanted to be an educator and paid attention to the people that made the biggest impact. It's these instances that made these teachers enter the educational profession and emulate their own idols.

Photo Credit: Debbie Meijer


Samantha Meijer

Samantha is an avid reader and writer, who finds relaxation in the imaginary worlds she creates. Her non-fiction work has been published for the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and she has won awards for her short fiction in the annual Remembrance Day Legion contest. When she's not writing, Samantha is sketching famous or familial people.

CWF | Royal Canadian Legion

The Initial Perspective

A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops - Henry Brooks Adams

We've all had aspirations, desires for success, and ideas for living the lives we've dreamed of. But how did we reach those points, or for some of us, how do we get there? Most say it comes through hard work, determination, and constant learning. But isn't that only made possible through the educators who've helped us achieve every step in the process of reaching those goals?

When you look back on your education, do you begin to remember what made you who you are? Maybe you start recalling the lessons that shaped you, and the world you've come to understand as a result of those lessons. Maybe these thoughts bring you to reflect on the teachers you once had, the teachers who made a difference and left a lasting impression.

 The steps to understanding the world through education: reflection of teachers and their teachings

The steps to understanding the world through education: reflection of teachers and their teachings

On many an occasion, these thoughts have weaved through my mind. They've made me reflect on the teachers I've had in my educational journey, but more importantly, the teachers who made an impact in my life.

Yet, when I think about these teachers, I think about what makes them memorable and if this is something that can be taught. These questions might seem average, queries I should already have answers to. Sure, you can say that a memorable teacher is someone you remember as doing something for you in your life. However, what is that something and when does that something make the teacher memorable?

A couple of months ago, I gave a note to a past teacher of mine, explaining my appreciation for what they did for me, and what they're continuing to do. In doing so, it made me stop and think about those who've changed me in some way, and prompted the question of why? Why are they so memorable to me, why do only a handful of teachers resonate so clearly in my mind? These questions forced me to think about what each of them did for me, and also, what they're continuing to do for me from the sidelines.

All teachers can do exactly what they were taught to do, and that's to teach. But what makes you stop and say, “I understand why they're memorable to me.” How do you choose who those memorable teachers are?

I've made it my quest to find answers to these questions by asking teachers and students what made a memorable teacher, while discovering the answers for my own mind along the way.

Photo Credit: Kim Meijer


Samantha Meijer

Samantha is an avid reader and writer, who finds relaxation in the imaginary worlds she creates. Her non-fiction work has been published for the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and she has won awards for her short fiction in the annual Remembrance Day Legion contest. When she's not writing, Samantha is sketching famous or familial people.

CWF | Royal Canadian Legion