You are a great teacher.
How did she react?
She hasn't yet. I will forward her this link.
How did I feel?
Every compliment is a thank you: By complimenting someone I am actually thanking them for a piece of light they put out in the world. Some candidates radiate consciously, some don't. Some do it on purpose while playing music, baking cakes or growing an awesome beard- others just let it happen. They shine through their smiles or the way they move.
Obviously there is a second part involved: It takes sensitivity on the observer's side. That's what I am training in this project. I want to perceive the little pieces of light around me. So yes, every compliment is a thank you and just like any other thank you it needs something to be thankful for and someone to say and feel it.
Yesterday I talked to a deprived school teacher. Her stories filled me with respect for her strength, devotion and endurance. When she was finished I said: "These kids are going to thank you to the moon and back some day, for not giving up on them no matter how huge their resistance was."
When we'd said goodbye I kept thinking about her. And about teachers. And about how amazingly blessed I have been with all those loving and competent ones in my life. I realized: This project is my chance to thank them. By complimenting them. Or just saying thank you. Apparently, same thing anyways...
What exactly was it they gave to me?
Let's start with Cathrin. To me, she was Mrs. Könnecke.
She taught Biology. I was in her class in 11th grade. She'd just finished her degree, she was young and rode her bike to school every day. I remember she had one of those cool bike bags. Practical and aesthetic. But it wasn't that. It wasn't the fact that her hair was the prettiest I'd ever seen around school either.
It was her drive. She was on fire. She watched We Feed The World with us, an amazing and disturbing documentary on food waste and -production. There were baby chickens taken down an assembly line that automatically threw them into boxes. Many of them died- so what. Trucks delivering tons of fresh bread to a garbage dump- see, prices must be saved. Fish ceased, fields poisoned, kids malnourished. It was horrible. (It still is.) When the film was over everyone sat in silence. We were devastated. For a while nothing happened. Then the bell ringed.
But Mrs Könnecke didn't let us leave like that. Instead she got up and said: "Now it's important you understand you don't have to be part of the game. There are other ways. There is something you can do, even you. You have a choice, I have a choice. We all do. Choose the farmer's market over the discount store. Start growing your own things. Even if it's just tomatoes, it's worth something. Say no to an extra plastic bag. Get a lunch box. Support small, local shops. You can make a difference, no matter how small it seems, it's worth it."
I will never forget that. "There are other ways." She was standing upright, her eyes sparkling. And I thought: "Wow."
She taught genetics. I still know: Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase, Telophase- 8 years later. She knew what she was doing. Her structures were distinct, I never felt lost in her class.
Sure, it was all that. Yet there was something more. If you ask me that something is essential. It draws the division line between a good and a bad teacher: Mrs. Könnecke was a great teacher not only because she was passionate and skillful. It was because she believed in me and conveyed that. She saw the light in me, trusting my abilities both intellectually and personally. And she managed to make me feel she did. It was in the way she looked at me and talked to me. There was respect. And love. For what she was doing- and for me. It's people like her who have made me start believing in the person I am and realize I am beautiful, I've got something to give and to say. A perception to trust, a heart to honor and a talent to work for.
I can't think of anything more valuable than that.
Thank you so much, Mrs Könnecke.