By: Jane Beall
Assistant Field Hockey Coach
A Division III assistant coach must wear many hats. In a day’s work, I may play the role of counselor, caterer, cheerleader, referee, travel agent (for the younger readers, a travel agent was like a human Expedia), secretary, graphic designer, blogger over at GFH, and so on. At the core of what I do, though, and the reason I do all of this, is my role as a teacher. I think that what I do is fundamentally about teaching. The teacher I’m gradually becoming on the field is heavily influenced by the teachers I have had in various classrooms throughout my life.
Take Juanita Coleman, my junior kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Coleman was the calmest, kindest woman and all of her students were smitten with her. She had a lap like a lazy boy chair and she would let us climb all over her during story time. She actually lived nearby and my sister and I would make my mom honk the horn every time we drove by her house. I dressed myself every day and wouldn’t let my mother brush my hair, so the only thing distinguishing me from a feral child was shoes, and yet, Mrs. Coleman was as kind and patient with me as she was with anyone else. One day, my skirt fell down when I stood up, and I cried for an hour until my parents brought me a new outfit. Mrs. Coleman comforted me, attempting to convince me that no one had seen (even though I was in front of the class when it happened, and even at five, I knew that they had). Soon enough, I had a new skirt on and was playing with my friends. Mrs. Coleman passed away years ago, but we still honk the horn when we go by her house. From her, I learned that sometimes, being a good teacher is about being kind when it’s all going to hell and your skirt is falling down in front of everyone.
From Nancy Parrish, my high school creative writing teacher, I learned that a good teacher is one who can create a safe environment in which to take risks. I always enjoyed writing, but sharing that writing aloud was another story. My class with Dr. Parrish was a Breakfast Club of sorts, attracting kids from all kinds of cliques with all kinds of personalities. It could have been a disaster of teenaged proportions. But Dr. Parrish set a tone of respect that allowed all of us to be ourselves, to try new things and to collaborate. I was deathly afraid of reading aloud, but one day Dr. Parrish brought in her acoustic guitar and sang a song she wrote herself. I knew her pretty well, and I was pretty confident that was not easy for her to do. Seeing her take a risk like that in front of a bunch of usually judgmental teenagers was deeply impressive, and it sent the signal that her classroom was not a place for pretentions. It was a place for challenging yourself, your classmates, and becoming better writers. And you know what – it was an awesome song.
In college, I took so many of Suzanne Keen’s English classes that I think I technically minored in Keen. The woman’s 8 a.m. spring term class always has a double-digit waitlist, which is practically unheard of. One of the things that makes her such a good teacher is how she addresses her students. She called us colleagues and treated us like partners in her class. I could read every book in Leyburn and I wouldn’t be any closer to being Dr. Keen’s peer – she is in the stratosphere of academia – but the fact that she always expected us to act like scholars made us strive to be scholars. We did the reading and attended every class because we felt like stakeholders in our education. She made it matter to us. A good teacher makes it matter.
I am lucky that I still have teachers to learn from all around me. My grandmother, mother, and aunt are retired teachers, and my sister is in her fourth year. Wendy, my head coach, is a consummate teacher, and there hasn’t been a day on the job I haven’t learned something. So in the end, I guess this post is just a really long thank you to the teachers I have had. Thank you, coaches!