Teachers have the means to inspire long after they were once your teacher; and if you’re lucky, they may even someday be your friend.
“Teach the children so it will not be necessary to teach the adults.” Abraham Lincoln
Today I thought to myself, what should I write about? What great learning can I give myself today? I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head and so many feelings abundant in my heart and so many items from my bucket list yet to accomplish.
I tend to wake up every day wholeheartedly believing something incredible will happen. Sometimes that incredible thing lasts but a moment. Other times, its effects last a lifetime. Some times, it will only have a minor effect upon the grand scheme of my life. Other times, it will be the very essence of what my life will be about and always should have been about.
It could be the realization that someone who was once a stranger will play a significant part in my life. Or it could be the realization that someone I’ve known for a long time could play the most significant part in my life, just in a different way than before. For those reasons, I tend to welcome everyone into my life with a generosity of someone reborn recently, every day living on borrowed time since that fateful December morning almost seven years ago.
I tend to think these and other big thoughts when I awake and throughout the day as it progresses into my destiny.
Today, among other things, I thought about art. I love to draw and I love to paint. Anyone who knows me knows that. I started drawing around the time I was seven years old soon after my family moved to the USA. Back then, I could draw really well, better than I can today. I could certainly draw better than I could speak English. I remember I had a crush on a classmate. Her name was Joy, and because she and I handed the milk out to our classmates around lunchtime, I thought she was my girlfriend. One day, she didn’t come to school; and I was really sad, missing her terribly. So I drew a picture of a triceratops (if you don’t know what it is, think Jurassic Park- he’s one of the good guys), gave it to her best friend Christine to give to Joy. I remember this as if it happened yesterday. I was a hopeless romantic even back then. What I don’t remember is whether the drawing got me the girl. Maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought. Better learn how to speak English, I remember thinking.
I’m finally getting confident in my abilities, knowing what I am good at and knowing what areas I need further work and practice. I thought of the artists in my life – my friends Derek and Tammy who over two years ago inspired me to start painting in the first place… living in Sausalito fueled that inspiration as well… my brother George and my buddy Tad who are both one-time artists themselves, my brother Les who always encouraged me to draw superheroes, and a kid named Ted Lai in high school who could draw anything in his field of vision… my friend Roland in Chicago who I believe is the most talented artist I’ve ever seen in my adult life. I thought of all these things and all of these people.
And then today, an old friend of mine Cesni from high school invited me to like her mother’s page on Facebook of her paintings. All of a sudden, the gift that was to be given to me today presented itself. I had never taken any formal training in how to draw or paint, save for a semester of class I took my junior year at West Lafayette High School in Indiana. Memories of that semester flooded my brain.
And that was when I met my art teacher Fusun Gulen, Cesni’s mother. She was really sweet with a cute accent and a funny way about her and stern in a way no one seemed to take seriously. Her classes were awesomely chaotic in the way you would envision an art class to be, where most of us were there not because we were good but because we wanted to get out of another class. As the semester progressed, you could see a change, where many of the students did start to care. There is something about seeing your creation on paper or on a canvas or in the form of a sculpture, that gave even those that vehemently declared they didn’t care, a huge sense of pride and accomplishment.
It would be years before I did anything more than dabble in the talent God gave me that Fusun’s class nurtured, aside from that semester in high school, not committing to developing it. College was too much fun. And Chicago was even more fun.
Like Roy Hobbs’ father told him while they were playing catch,
“You’ve got a gift Roy… but it’s not enough – you’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift… then… you’ll fail.” (from The Natural)
I would churn out drawings here, watercolours there. It would be almost twenty-five years before I committed to picking up a real brush. And I had to leave Chicago and move to Sausalito to start. Inspiration and encouragement from close friends helped. But all of those things were really born from a woman who was a teacher. Though I would not see her often over the years since high school, when I did, Fusun and I became friends. She was still an amazing woman, still funny, and as I came to realize much later, unbelievably talented.
Much like my English teacher Dr. Burch who inspired me to start a journal at 17 years of age (and consistently writing in one every since), my art teacher Fusun Gulen inspired me to paint. In that way, they both are two of the most significant people to ever come across my life.
Teachers are among the most incredible people in the world, in so many ways, so giving and so selfless, the fruits of their labor lived out in the lives and futures of their students, their talents manifested in the talents of their students. And long after those students leave, when they (in this case when I) take a moment to reflect back upon those that influenced and shaped their lives, many of them (as do I) will think of a teacher or two who helped them become the person they are today.
Below is a link to Fusun’s Facebook page showcasing some of her artwork. The painting that sits atop this post as well as the bottom is an example of her wonderful work. She is simply amazing.
Who is your favourite teacher?
“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” Maya Angelou
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William A. Ward
Go Adventure. Go Travel. Go Live.
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