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Some years ago, educator and writer Mike Rose wrote a post about his high school English teacher. It is a beautiful piece that captures the ineffable moment 40 years ago when Rose was ready--he did not know it at the time--to dig deeper into literature.The pushing and prodding he got from Jack McFarland, his young English teacher, Rose said, changed "the direction of my life."
Rose's post reminded me of letters I had received from former high school students, teachers I had trained in Washington, D.C., and from doctoral advisees at Stanford. A glow of satisfaction would come over me whenever I read such letters that asserted my influence in their lives. I suspect that Jack McFarland might have experienced such a glow when reading Mike Rose's post.
As I read the compliments and how much the student attributed to me in shaping his or her life's work, however, a shadowy doubt, surely no more than a speck, came over me. That shadow of doubt had to do with the tricks that our memories play on us in selectively remembering what we want to remember. There were many students, for example, who failed to learn in my classroom. Moreover, it is easy to forget how important the concept of "being ready" to learn, is.