One of my high school teachers passed away the other day and it caught me off guard a bit. I know people get old and die, and I know that I went to high school over 20 years ago, so death isn’t shocking or anything. But, this teacher had an impact on me. I was just talking to my oldest daughter about him last week. He taught this class called “Semantics” and it was the first class I took in school that didn’t feel like a class. It wasn’t 2+2 is 4, it was more thought provoking and engagement. It was more of a class opening your eyes and allowing you to question everything. Those were the classes I loved. I wish I was smart enough back then to follow my passions instead of just going to a business school because I thought that was how I would be successful in life. I wish I went to a school with more of those types of classes. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time in college. But, academically, I think I would have gotten a lot more out of discovering my passion instead of following a path.
Anyway, this teacher wrote his own obituary which I read and I loved. It was nowhere near the “survived by XYZ, in lieu of flowers, please donate to” obituary. It was written just like how he taught. It spoke of all of his adventures and had humor and a heart felt message in it about seizing the day. He was teaching even after he was gone.
I shared his obituary on facebook after I saw it from someone else. Comments started to flood in and others began to share it. And I quickly realized I wasn’t alone in my love for what he taught. Lots of “I remember… and he was my favorite” comments. People living 3 doors away from me, to people living all over the world. What an incredible impact he had.
Teachers have access to so many of us for such a long period of time in our lives. They have such a responsibility to help us become successful members of society. And they have to do it while lots of us are just trying to make it to the end of the day so we can take off the dumb clothes our parents made us wear. Teachers invest in us, even when we don’t want them to. As I get older I don’t remember any of the bad teachers, or even the ones that seemed to just “be”. I remember all the ones that made me think, all the ones that challenged me or made me forget I was in school. The ones that taught me without me even knowing that I was learning.
My daughter said something to me at the beginning of her school year about how she can feel her brain getting smarter. How, all this new stuff is challenging her and she likes it. She’s a different species than me, that’s for sure. Constantly challenging herself at school taking the “smahht kid” classes and pushing herself at her dance studio also. That wasn’t me for sure, I was the “do just enough so Mom and Dad don’t question me” type of student. Study just enough so I wasn’t hassled. School wasn’t hard for me. 2+2 was always just something I knew. It was classes like the one this teacher taught though that I remember the most. It was those classes that in school if you had to pick between Accounting and Semantics, most would pick accounting because money makes the world go round, but Semantics is the class that I still talk about to this day. Semantics is the one I use when teaching my daughter something about a different way to think.
I think about impact all the time. I try to live my life knowing that my family will remember who I was. And I am envious of people, like Mr. Doherty who impacted so many of us. He wouldn’t remember me from being a student over 20 years ago, but I remember him and I thank him for being in my life for that short period of time. I do always say that small things lead to big things, and I think this is a perfect example. He was only in my life for a few months, but I still use his lessons to this day and I use what he taught to teach my own kids.
Impact… my kids are contractually obligated to talk about me. To tell stories of how dumb I was or the funny thing I did long after I am gone. But, who else will? To Mr. Doherty I am almost a complete stranger and I talk about him. He taught and teaches me still. That’s impact, that’s a life worth living.