the teacher that mattered…

…Dorothy Mahoney. A published poet in flowing hippie skirts with a “goop” timer for our writing exercises, she was the teacher who looked over my writing and saw talent where I saw words strung together and defying my will to behave. She believed my writing was a serious option for me, even when I did not and she challenged each and every one of her students. The building blocks of my writing habits, the timed writing and the ever present small notebook in my bag to jot down ideas and notes came from her.

I went to a typical rural Canadian high school where hockey and drinking cheap beer in barns reigned but in the upstairs English hallway there was a quiet room for kids like me. The kids who wore different clothes, didn’t go to the games and huddled near the smoking fence in the back, whether they smoked or not. Three times a week for 56 minutes each day there was a class for me to fill a notebook with my own thoughts and surprise the confused jocks who wandered in to that classroom that yes, the quiet girl could do something besides ghost through the hallways at the corner of their eye.

Each term, somehow I managed to take a class with Mrs. Mahoney every semester for the last two years of high school, she would bring in a fellow poet from the area to give an inspiring talk to us. To wrap their words around our ears and weight us down with their lightness of being. I felt like every class was for me and all the other misfits but most importantly, I finally had somewhere to go where I was at the top. I had confidence in that classroom and that was because of Mrs. Mahoney.

Last I heard, she wasn’t teaching at EDHS anymore, she had moved on to another school as teachers are wont to do. I’m willing to bet that whatever school she ended up at, there is a shy and kind of awkward student sitting off to the side in her classroom, grateful for her Creative Writing class.

As we are staring down the long barrel of education cuts in our province (I received all but the majority of my post-secondary in Ontario), it makes me eternally heartbroken that my own children may not have the same opportunity to find their special niche in school because our province is so concerned with building roads over educating the future. I have seen the difference between a somewhat rural school and a P3 school in the middle of suburbia when we moved out to a lesser funded area of HRM. The teachers still care, this is why they do it (no, it’s not for the summer vacation), but they are making more with less and pretty soon they will have to continue doing even more with less. There are a lot of priceless teachers in our education system, treat them with respect and thank them. Maybe, just maybe this will make it into the path of Dorothy Mahoney and she will know that slowly but surely I am finally doing what she always knew I could do.


3 thoughts on “the teacher that mattered…

  1. Leslie says:

    Joy this is amazing! And as a teacher, no longer in Canada but the same issues are there regardless where you live, thank you. Nothing is better than hearing that you made a difference, you helped someone realize they were more than they had believed. Because that is the reason you become a teacher to make children/ teenagers/ young adults understand that they are someone and their potential is limitless.

    • Ms. Joy says:

      Thanks Leslie! I’m happy you read it. I know a lot of teachers get a lot of flak, but teaching is a difficult job that needs recognition. I hear some of the horror stories from the family members in my life who are teachers, but I also hear their stories about students that have been transformed with their influence, the kids that really benefitted from the relationship. It’s awesome that you became a teacher, you were born to do it! (Do you remember Mrs. Mahoney?)

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