“Your favorite teacher.”
Ah yes, one of my favorite security questions to answer for online password creation. I always answer it with the name of my first-grade teacher. When I think back to grade school, she is the bright light in my memory.
It’s funny though; as much as I remember all the love I felt in that classroom, I can also remember all the times I was disciplined in first grade.
We had these paper pockets on the wall with our names on them, and a bunch of painted popsicle sticks. Brown for a mild offense. Red for medium. Black sticks for really-really-really-bad-things. (Like, you were probably going to see the principal.) When we behaved out of line, we had to put the stick with the color of “severity” in our pocket on the wall, for everyone to see.
For the record, I never got a black stick in first grade. BUT. I specifically remember the one time (ONE TIME!) I got a red stick.
My best friend Lisa and I laughed out loud at a boy in our class because of something he said about a presidential race happening at the time. Of course, we were all saying things we’d taken from our parents, but I remember Lisa and I both had to put red sticks in our pockets for the day, as well as apologize to the boy in front of the whole class.
I was mortified. And disappointed in myself. And deeply sorry.
Funny how my favorite teacher is also the only teacher I can so vividly remember teaching me a lesson: That everyone’s experience is valid. That boy’s truth may not have been my truth (or any of our actual truths at age 6!) … but the difference in truth didn’t make either false. Truth is a dynamic word, and it stretches, bends and folds depending on who you’re talking to.
To add another layer, I realized (and continue to get reminded) that I learned this same idea over and over again throughout the years from so many people in my life. I now consider every single one of them my teachers. Initially, when I looked back on moments of hurt in my past — the misunderstandings, the hardship, the tough times… the fresh wounds were more difficult for me those situations as teachable moments. That’s the funny thing about pain; It can blind us when it’s fresh.
But when I spend more time in observation of those memories… and going even further back to the times I’ve transcended pain into evolution, I say things like “She taught me so much about business” (without needing to say: despite all the chaos that ensued because of it), or “He taught me to keep trusting my intuition,” (without needing to say: despite the hurt I felt when he told me I was wrong).
The toughest lessons — and most transcendence — came from my greatest teachers.
So this idea of “favorite teacher” … sure, honoring grade school teachers is always appropriate. But today, I’m so deeply grateful for all the teachers in my life, especially those who went through some of the most painful moments. With some, I’ve parted ways. With others, I love unconditionally, as I love myself.
Regardless of present company, I’m grateful for all the teachers.
Originally hailing from Wisconsin, Mollie is a cheesehead transplant to Northwest Montana, with degrees in Retail and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today, she lives off the grid, half the year in a Tiny House & half the year in a yurt — both of which she and her husband, Sean, built by hand. Nonprofit Executive Director by day, Mollie also owns and teaches at Yoga Hive — a chain of community yoga studios in the valley.