When I was in eighth grade I had a fabulous English teacher. Her name was Ms. Dawson and I was an Honors Student, one of those in an advanced class.
She taught us so much within the confines of her classroom. We read and watched Death Be Not Proud, we were assigned a word of the day monthly and stood up in the front of class to present it…a good technique for teaching public speaking. She helped us connect poetry to images in the outer world and then published our works in a book I still have some forty years later.
Fast forward to eleventh grade where I was demoted to Regents class, the non-brilliant classification of the day. The brilliant students were on the other side of the wall in a class with, what I do believe was, a brilliant teacher named Barry Swan. I only heard pieces of his lectures, but I learned through stories that Barry Swan made students’ think. For sure, he had passion. You could hear it in his voice when it passed through the wall to the room I was sitting in that year.
My English teacher was out most of the year. She had been a victim of polio and became head of the Teacher’s Union…I think the latter was her passion and I think the polio led to her absences. She was a nice woman, gave me As on all my papers, but I don’t think she read them. One day, I actually wrote, if you are reading this please indicate it. When the paper was returned there was no mark on that line. I remember we were to read Beowulf…I could not get past the first page and had no motivation to try it.
When I went to college, it dawned on me, and was elucidated by many of my friends, that I did not read enough and do the simultaneous thinking. It was as if I stopped with junior year. My college boyfriend sent me into the summer after our sophomore year with a reading list. There were 10 books on that list, I bought all of them. I read most of them…they began to change my life. In retrospect, I think it was because the books covered such a wide range of topics and made me think of the uncertainty of certainty.
Here is the list of five of those books. Sadly, I cannot remember the other five but as you can see what a combination.
- The New Testament
- The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis
- The Roswell Incident
- Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton
- The Cosmos by Carl Sagan
For each book, I can summarize in about one sentence why it changed my thinking:
The New Testament is an integral part of the foundation of our society, like it or not!
The Screwtape Letters, written by the senior devil to the junior devil depict a truism: as soon as you proclaim your humility you lose it.
The Roswell Incident made me wonder are they out there and could the government really cover them up if they are?
The Seven Storey Mountain confirmed for me that it is body, mind, and soul.
The Cosmos: I admit I never could get through this tome, but I loved the pictures and I loved the concept billions and billions. I later in life worked for the man who hired the author, that was pretty cool.