Teachers have a lasting impact on children’s lives. We all know that, hence our career choice. We all harbor this vibrant, quiet hope that one day a student of ours will remember something we taught and be a better person because of it. We hope that somehow we will give them something worth hanging on to and carrying into their futures. Yesterday, I found something I’ve been hanging on to since eighth grade and it reminded me how much I really learned from one of my teachers.
I’m preparing to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (I leave on May 8, 2013 for the Independence, Missouri mission.) Part of my preparation is tying up loose ends here at home so I can leave things in order before I go. (Read: sifting through all the old boxes of my stuff in my parents’ garage and purging the things that have lost sentimental value.) Yesterday, I was up at my parents’ house going through boxes when I came across a pocket-size copy of the Constitution of the United States. I couldn’t tell you the origin or story of most of the other random papers I found in my boxes, but the memory of how I got (and why I kept) this particular copy of our nation’s governing treatise is crystal clear.
Flashback to my eighth grade U.S. history class. Miss Kivi, a young, spunky, curly-haired whiz of a teacher, gave each of us this pocket-sized copy of the Constitution to reference while we studied it as a class. To impress upon our young minds the gravity of this piece of literature, Miss Kivi told us that if came back to her after graduation with this copy of the Constitution, she would have something really special for us. Either she never told us what that special thing would be, (motivation by intrigue) or I just can’t remember what she promised us. So naturally, when our unit of constitutional study was over, I tucked my copy securely in my bundle of important papers and promptly forgot about it in the early teen drama that is eighth grade.
In the years since then, I’ve gone through the box sifting ritual countless times. Each time, I whittle away a bit of that stack of “important” papers. When I started high school, I was finally able to part with my kindergarten drawing of the tooth fairy. Before I left for college, I could finally toss my certificate from the sixth grade geography bee. You get the idea. But every time I went through the trappings of my youth, I would pick up that pocket-sized Constitution, think of Miss Kivi, and put it right back on top of the “keepers” pile. I never went back to claim my mysterious reward, but, out of remembrance for my teacher and reverence for what she taught me, I never threw out my Constitution either.
Yesterday, I found it again—my old, slightly water-damaged copy of the Constitution, creased open to the twelfth amendment. If I have questions about the Constitution, I google them (or ask my political science major roommate.) But I’m going to hang on to that pocket-sized Constitution just to remind myself that teachers can have a lingering influence on the way their kids think.