My Cornerstone by Marshal Hurst

My Cornerstone

My Cornerstone by Marshal Hurst

I was recently reading the book Culturize by Jimmy Casas and in it, he talks about being encouraged to share his voice through blogging.  It made me start thinking about stories that I have shared about myself over the years but have never written down.  What better way to improve my writing than to practice.  So this is my first attempt at sharing some of the things that I have learned and what has made me the educator that I am today.

I thought it fitting to start off with the cornerstone of my personal philosophy of education.  I have heard and read how the cornerstone can be the most essential or important part of a foundation.  In my case, it is a literally a rock.  I have had this “cornerstone” in my life for close to 28 years.  I keep it very close to me and look at it often.

…a love for reading and how to find my own meaning…

In school, we all have those favorite teachers that we will remember for as long as we live.  I never remember the content that was being taught as much as the stories that were shared about what made them the teachers they were.  I can think of several teachers that made me feel special, important, and successful.  One of these teachers was Mrs. Hogan.  I first had her my junior year for English.  I was always good at math but I never really enjoyed English class.  It was boring to me, diagramming sentences and finding the different parts of speech.  Mrs. Hogan though, taught me a love for reading and how to find my own meaning in the words. 

I was so excited when I found out that she was teaching a creative writing class the next year for seniors.  We read so many books and wrote so many things throughout the year.  Some of it, I didn’t quite understand, but it made me work harder.  I once told her years later that I still had some of the books that she checked out to me, but I intentionally kept them because I wanted to read them again.  She replied back to me with a smile, “I never expected to get them back.”  She made the story come alive with her reading and we shared so many of our own stories. 

“What do you see?”

On the last day of school Mrs. Hogan kept a group of us after class.  She held out her hands and she was holding a rock.  She asked, “What do you see?”  Of course, the first thing that came to my head was a rock.  She then started asking more questions.  “What value do you see in this?  How important is this thing in life?  Do you see any use in it?”  As she asked more and more questions, I continued to think, it is just a rock.  You see millions of them everywhere, nothing particular special.  Sometimes you might see a rock, pick it up, and maybe even keep it because of its shape, size, or texture, but rarely does that happen as you grow older.   It is after all, just a rock.

Mrs. Hogan then said there will be people in life who look at us the way they look at this rock.  They won’t see any value, nothing special about you, nothing making you stand out.  They may even try to throw you away because you are of no benefit to them. 

“This is what I see in you'”

Then she said, “This is what I see in you,” as she turned the rock over and we saw the shiny crystals on the other side, I now know this rock is called a Geode.  She described what she saw in all of us, the beauty and uniqueness that is there.  She said to never let anyone make us feel like we have no value to contribute to the world.  She described how each one of us is special and that we would be successful in anything that we decide to do.  She then handed each one of use our own Geode.  The picture is of the one I got from her. 

Mr. Casas describes this type of teacher as a champion to students.  Mrs. Hogan is my champion and she had a wonderful relationship with each of her students.  I was very lucky to have several champions in my life at that time.  I later had the opportunity to work with Mrs. Hogan and I spent many an hour talking to her.  I don’t think I will ever be able to do what she did, but it is what I strive for every day. 

….it is important to them so therefore it is important to me.

You see, I don’t want to be known as that teacher who could really teach Geometry.  I want to be the teacher that saw something unique in you.  When I see a student in the hallway, I want to see a smile when I say hello and ask them how things are going.  I want them to know I listen when they have something to say, because it is important to them so therefore important to me. 

Unfortunately she is no longer here physically but her spirit will always be here in me and the thousands of other students she taught.    This is my tribute to Mrs. Hogan, my champion.

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