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Teach me, please.

Title – Teach me, please.

By – Ridgely Goldsborough

As a youngster growing up overseas, I attended Kensington, the British school in Barcelona, Spain, along with a mixed breed of diplomatic offspring, foreign residents and the occasional progressive thinking local. We made up quite a bunch, cultures clashing constantly, embracing the fiery politics that followed the demise of long-term dictator Generalissimo Franco, comparing, contrasting and debating heatedly.

One man held the mish-mash together, a brilliant headmaster named J.P. Giles. I remember him bounding up the stairs to teach a class, almost always in a blue or gray suit, eyes on fire. He commanded the kind of respect that caused a rowdy room to quiet in an instant without demands or veiled threats.

My memory tells me that he could teach anything, substitute for any absent professor, pick up any curriculum at any point and carry on as if he led the course to begin with. Older and wiser, I question that notion — though I carry that unwavering image in my mind for a reason — because he deserved it.

Year after year, Kensington stood above the rest, the number one British school outside of the Queen’s isles. Year after year, students chose between Oxford, Cambridge, Yale and Harvard. I, myself, received an early invitation to Trinity College at Oxford. It seemed like we all did.

For personal reasons, I opted for The University of Virginia, Mr. Jefferson’s house, where once again, fortune blessed me with one fantastic tutor. Sadly, I have forgotten his name.

As a Spanish major (the easiest I could think of at the time), I wrote almost exclusively in Spanish. On a whim, I signed up for English Creative Writing 101.

A graduate student led the class. He corrected my faulty punctuation, suggested grammatical changes, lectured on syntax and structure.

For me, he did something far more powerful. He encouraged me. He told me that I had great potential and that I should keep at it. He recommended that I skip Creative Writing 102 and pushed through the paperwork for me to jump to 201. What he helped me start, continues to shape my path. From CW201 I progressed to CW301 (by-passed 202), and on to 401 (by-passed 302), aspiring to higher and higher targets.
He set me on a course that I still follow today.

What common thread binds Mr. Giles and this special Teaching Assistant?
They truly cared.
They had a passion for teaching, and infused that passion into anyone willing to plug in.
Their passion ignited us, fueled dreams and possibilities.

Unfortunately, over time most fuel burns out, leaving a pile of ashes in its stead. Only by finding a new source can we keep the fire burning.

Have you had at least one extraordinary teacher in your past?
Do you have one now? Are you one now?

Whether dead or alive, through books or in person, I suggest that you find one. Seek out a coach, a mentor, someone to kindle your passion flames and hold you accountable to your dreams, and actively try to be the same for others.

From the ashes rises the phoenix.

Or not.

Most ashes simply blow away, forgotten, at first wind.

That’s A View From The Ridge.

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Ridgely Goldsborough

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