Not If But When

I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about education. Everything from new company ideas to following the recent turnover in the education chancellor ranks. Whenever I do, I think about teachers.

I realized, for as much schooling as I've had - all the way through Stanford Law School a combined 17 years - there were only a handful of teachers that I remember. And not all for their teaching.

There was Mrs. Valenzuela's assistant, technically not a teacher but taught me nonetheless. She found me crying with a sandwich in my hand. When I told her how the sandwich bread was filled with bugs, she wrapped an arm around my shoulder and explained those "bugs" were actually poppy seeds and the more you ate them the more beautiful you became. I looked up at her through my tears and a pretty young woman was looking at me. So I believed her. I sniffled and took tentative bites until I had finished my entire sandwich.

There was Mrs. Greenwade, a small woman who didn't impart any knowledge that I can remember, but demonstrated you didn't need to be big to be heard.

There was a biology professor in college who told me I had a special aptitude for science and should consider changing my major. I told her I had loans to pay back and needed to make money.

There was my property law professor's face when he related his surprise in discovering I had written one of the highest grade exams in his class.

But there is only one teacher who managed to shape my life view and I don't even remember her name. She was my world studies/geography teacher in high school.

She was notoriously strict. She taught us how to outline, requiring that we carry rulers, red pens and yellow highlighters everywhere we went. She instructed us in the fine art of writing down only what was essential.

Every week she lectured on a new country. And every lecture, throughout the lecture she would say, "Not if, but when."

"If I go to Singapore," a boy in class would start to say in response to a discussion, and she would interrupt him. "Not if, but when you go to Singapore, John." She'd wait until he restarted his point with the proper language.

She was relentless. Our language never slipped her attention and she was adamant about reshaping it and thus, what we saw as possible. She truly believed, for all of us, it was a matter of when.

I haven't been to Singapore, yet but I've traveled. My world opened up like she predicted and I know it will continue to because I know it's not if, but when.