Wednesday, March 7, 2012



When I was thirteen or so, my mother took me aside and pronounced that I should either be a minister or a teacher.  The immediate effect of this bulletin was to make my shivers wiggle!  These careers were the farthest possible choices from my adolescent imagination, not that I had given much (or really any) thought to a career at that point.  I had just barely become a teenager after all.  It’s not an appointment process I felt, it just happens, or so it seems.

Swept up in the typical flow of school, I found myself in the hallways of the local community high school, freshman year.  If anyone had taken notice of me, I hadn’t noticed.  I was just an immature kid, hoping to make it through the maze of hallways without drawing attention to myself.  Good luck with that! The game was everyone noticed everything; how you dressed, how you cut your hair, who you walked with, etc. 

Academically, math class proved to be especially challenging.  Algebra wanted something from me that I just didn’t seem to have.  What was all this about “x” anyhow?  To me it was all an unknown.  My teacher, Mr. Hutchison, was just a little hard to read at first. He was soft spoken, witty, clean cut, with a blazer and Buddy Holly glasses.  People who knew him referred to him as “Hutch” although never to his face.

He knew math was all slings and arrows to me, but he never embarrassed me in class by calling on me when he understood I was lost.  The day before tests, he invited me and others to a review session after school.  If you attended, there were likely problems practiced that would be on the exam the next day. I attended.

When I dropped out of marching band (the clarinet was my woodwind equivalent of algebra) he found a job for me holding the sideline down marker at home football games.  I was still involved.

During my senior year I quit the wrestling team in frustration, one month shy of the dreaded “participation letter.”   He took me aside and kindly asked the wisdom of my decision.  I couldn’t admit to him my embarrassment in not actually earning a letter, but he understood.  I was relieved.

Passing him in the hallway on any given day, he would give me a silent, non-judgmental nod of recognition.  I sometimes walked out of my way just to gain this affirmation.

Slowly as the days and years passed, he became “Hutch” to me.

As luck would have it, I have recently retired from a 35 year career as a teacher.  Imagine that! I tried along the way to be caring, understanding, and supportive, realizing that children need such consideration.  It’s the least that I could do, because in part it was done for me.

I guess you don’t always know a role model when you first see them.  Perhaps the clich√© images of sports stars and movie idols put up road blocks. Or perhaps it’s just the fact that we don’t know who we will become, at least when we are young, and who might just be quietly guiding us along the way. 

Looking back now, it’s easier for me to see who was there for me and who had a hand in my making.  Looking back, I see those Buddy Holly glasses and sly smile.

Post a Comment