This is my second draft for my memoir.
It was in the days of smoke-filled teachers’ lounges, and he hurried to class reeking of cigarette smoke. Rick Watson was a short, wiry, balding, mustachioed English teacher who moved and talked quickly. He seemed to know a little something about everything, and he was so eager to teach that he did it as if his existence depended upon it.
As we worked, Mr. Watson would circle around the room, not so much walking as pivoting on his famously unevenly worn shoes. When he bent over to assist a student, his swinging tie would interrupt the conversation, and his coffee-cigarette breath would make it difficult to concentrate, but earnest desire to help somehow made those quirks bearable.
One day we were working in groups, and as he walked away from my side of the classroom, the group to the left asked question. He spun around, answered the question, and then continued to his original destination. As he spun around, though, everything seemed to slow down; I had what could only be called an epiphany: he loved what he was doing, and it seemed like something that might be fun.
It is from that moment that I date my own desire to be an English teacher. As it was, I brushed aside the idea immediately. I was, after all, only a junior in high school. Thinking about being a high school teacher while in high school seemed somehow unseemly. It was as if, by thinking about being a teacher, I was suggesting I was somehow intellectually superior to my peers. But I knew what he did helped people—daily—and the thought of helping people every single day appealed to me.
Available for help at all times, Mr. Watson taught everywhere and anywhere, and constantly. The world was his classroom, and he never drew a line between his “teacher” self and his “personal” self. He had no down time; he was always a teacher, always willing to show, to help, to discuss. One evening, my friend and I bumped into him at the public library. We were doing research for a presentation in his class, and he ended up helping us for well over half an hour that evening, on his personal time.
Mr. Watson was the first male teacher to really instill in me a sense of passion about one’s work. He was the first male teacher who seemed to have an absolute love affair with his job. He showed me that being in love with language and with teaching was not masculine or feminine—it was simply human passion. A calling. In short, I might never have even considered teaching if I’d never been in Rick Watson’s classroom.