High School was hell. There isn't any other way to put it. I just wanted to get out of there, and fast. For the most part, I had middle of the road teachers. There was only one teacher from hell during those years. However, I guess the most aggravating thing had to do with the fact I went to five different schools during this period.
That, and only three teachers were ones that I could consider "above and beyond."
My first semester as a freshman was, undoubtedly, the worst. A two hour bus trip to and from the school only exacerbated the issue. It wasn't until April that things began to change for me. It was a new school, and not just new, but within walking distance from where I lived-- in fact, I could see it from my front yard.
Which probably has a lot to do with why Mr. Collins is considered at the tippy-top apex of my all time favorite teachers. From August of my sophomore year until November of my junior year, Mr. Collins was an English teacher beyond compare.
Not because he was brilliant in English, in fact, I knew things about grammar, character creation, story structure etc. that blew his skills out of the water. And I was only fifteen at the time compared to his 30-odd plus educational degrees.
Where he stood out was what he told me from the first paper I wrote...something along the lines of what I wanted to be when I grew up, and of course, I said I wanted to be a writer. Before he graded it, he asked to see some other stuff I wrote.
I agreed, and after school the next day he read a few of what I considered my "best" pieces at the time (looking back on them makes me shudder though...eek!) without saying a word as I fidgeted in the chair wondering what the hell he was thinking.
Still silent, he shuffled through the stack of ungraded papers pulled out mine and marked it with an "F" and dropped it on my desk. I was stunned, never before had I received an F on an English paper.
"But I did what you asked me to," I complained.
"And that's all you did. You can do better than that. I've seen it in what you've written here today. So, from now on, for you, it's either an F or an A. No in-betweens, it's time to see if you really have what it takes to be a writer."
It was then that I truly learned the value of rewrites and how to make the most of the editing process. Mr. Collins taught me how to look at a story objectively and rip it apart from bottom to top. He taught me the value of a critique and how to make the most of it. Not just on that day, but for several after school sessions he would help me tighten my prose until it sparkled.
Don't get me wrong, I certainly wasn't the perfect student. I cried. I screamed. I even threw a book across the room. Mr. Collins though, was patient throughout. He'd listen to me cry, scream, and pick up the book as needed and simply told me, "You can do this. You know you want to."
Eventually I did. I got it, and yeah, I got an A in that class. It was the first A (but not the last, as you'll see later) that I truly felt I earned.
If I had to repeat one year from high school, it would be my junior year. As to why, and the last two influential teachers on my list, I'll talk about that in my next entry.