As a sophomore in college, I cannot believe it was only two years ago that I was preparing to graduate high school. Looking back, I remember how ready I felt to leave the world I had always known--a world full of noisy hallways, classrooms without AC, and textbooks containing information I never thought I'd use again in my life--for a new and exciting world at a university.
Now, as my day-to-day life is full of internship searches, courses that each bring me one step closer to my dream career, and trying (key word: trying) to maintain a balanced saving-spending ratio, I hardly ever think about high school anymore. However, sometimes, when I hear the word "ethos," or am discussing a political crisis, or come across a box of ice cream sandwiches, my mind wanders back to my days as a high school student, specifically to when I sat in the classroom of one Mrs. Bobbi Carter.
Bobbi Carter's AP 11: Language and Composition class contained so much more than a teacher with a curriculum. She had an agenda, that's for sure, but her course objectives extend far beyond teaching students to "analyze and interpret samples of purposeful writing" and "respond to different writing tasks according to their unique rhetorical and composition demands." Though it was three years ago that I was in her classroom, I still vividly remember so many lessons she taught me, as I'm sure I will for years to come.
1. She adequately prepared me for a college curriculum.
As a high-ability student, my writing was rarely critiqued in general education classes. I capitalized the first letters of sentences, avoided using contractions in formal writing, and even threw in an occasional semicolon; subsequently, I avoided the scrutiny of my teachers and receive As on most of my papers.
Once I sat under Bobbi Carter's teaching, however, my writing was actively and consistently criticized. I learned to avoid fallacies, analyze rhetorical techniques, and meet deadlines. Outside of writing, I became more well-versed on different theories, perspectives, and philosophies. The content in this course has helped me in various classes at my liberal arts university--from seminar courses to religion courses, to global studies, to campaign courses.
2. She was not afraid to keep me humble.
The constructive criticism Bobbi Carter gave me taught me that I had much more to learn than I realized. Instead of making me feel incompetent, this criticism gave me the drive to learn more and become a better writer. I realized that there was (and still is) so much out there I had left to learn, and I was eager to do so.
3. She taught me, quite literally, to shake it off when I face troubles.
Not only was Bobbi Carter an exceptional English teacher, but she was also a phenomenal choreographer. I participated in the spring musicals at my high school, and Bobbi Carter was the choreographer for two of them. Whether I was tired after a long day in stuffy classrooms, upset about an argument I had with a friend or stressed about my relationship, it all seemed to fade away in these rehearsals. There was something therapeutic about making 8-counts the center of my focus, with the sound of music drowning out all of the other cares I had.
4. She taught me how to take a break.
Ask almost anyone I know, and they will tell you I am Type A, almost to a fault. I love to be two steps ahead, take the reins in any and all situations, and check off all of the boxes. Because of this, I tend to overcommit and overexert myself. In my first trimester in Bobbi Carter's classroom, I found it so confusing when she had us pause between parts one and two of our exam just to eat ice cream cones.
I was programmed to get the job done quickly, and I didn't realize how beneficial stopping and smelling the roses could be. Whether we had a reading day in the outdoor courtyard, took a period to address general concerns about life in the real world, or finished class with 80s music trivia, I began to realize that allowing myself time to breathe actually increased my productivity. I'm not a robot--I am a human being who needs rest, and Bobbi Carter taught me that I deserve to let myself take a break once in a while.
5. She became one of my biggest fans.
After we took the AP exam in early May, my class spent almost two weeks working on our common application essays as our final project. Bobbi Carter emailed us our revisions at the beginning of summer and encouraged us to check back in with her as we completed the college application process. She truly wanted us to reach our fullest potential as human beings, not just as her students. When I received a 4 on my AP exam, I emailed Bobbi right away because I knew she could celebrate with me.
6. She taught me the importance of diversity of perspectives.
Like I mentioned earlier, there was so much of the world that I had not been exposed to before entering Bobbi Carter's classrooms. She asked the hard questions, and she didn't settle for surface answers. She encouraged us to challenge the status quo, to change our point of view (even if just for a moment), and to keep an open mind. In Middle of Nowhere, Indiana, this revolutionary thought prepared me for the liberal arts education I am now receiving.
7. She treated me with respect.
Even though I was only 16 when I became a student of Bobbi Carter's, she never made me feel like less than just because I was young. Some teachers tended to assert their dominance by reminding us of our age and inexperience, but Bobbi Carter sought to understand the way our brains were wired and how the environment we grew up in shaped us. When I spoke, I felt like she genuinely cared about what I had to say.
When she emailed my class our final grades, she attached a note to each of our papers. My note said that I was "truly wise for [my] years," and for one of the only times in my high school career, I felt understood. I struggled in high school because I felt like I was pretending to care about things that didn't really matter. My interests weren't exactly the same as most high school students, and the only person I talked to about this inner struggle with was my mom. Bobbi Carter, however, somehow saw through my facade and appreciated who I was--right down to my core.
8. She taught me to adventure.
When talking about our spring break plans, Bobbi Carter told me she was going on her own version of "Eat, Pray, Love." Her plan was to pack a suitcase full of books, a swimsuit, and clothing suitable for various temperatures and get in her car and drive. She didn't have any hotel reservations or any destination in mind; instead, she was just going to go where the wind took her. This inspired me, causing me to realize that sometimes, it's perfectly okay to not have a plan.
9. She willingly and voluntarily cultivated a lasting relationship with me.
After graduating high school, Bobbi Carter invited two of my friends and me to brunch at her house. These friends of mine were also in her AP language class and participated in the spring musicals.
Bobbi Carter's husband had recently accepted a job two hours away from where we all lived, and she wanted to have us all together for a meal to say farewell. All morning, we sat on her back porch talking about the huge transition we were all about to undergo. She was moving, and the three of us were going to college. Looking back, this brunch feels like the part of a coming-of-age novel where it is evident the characters lives are all radically changing. I left that brunch with a smiling soul.
She cared about us as humans, not just as students, and diligently tried to help us see the potential we had to make a great impact on the world. Even now, I know that if I needed her, Bobbi Carter is only an email or phone call away.
Maya Angelou is quoted saying, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Though she taught me to avoid cliches, I cannot think of anyone who epitomizes this quote better than Bobbi Carter. She is one of the few people who I believe ever actually took the time to see me. She taught me to believe in myself, to live life to the fullest, and to never stop learning.
Bobbi Carter taught me to become a better writer, but more importantly, she taught me how to become a better person. For that, I am forever indebted to her.