• Long ago, college students faced a curfew. They had to be in their dorm by a certain time, when the doors would be locked. A female student at Smith College arrived late one night, found herself locked out, but discovered an open window, which she attempted to climb through. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her posterior, giving her a much-needed boost through the open window. Turning around to see her benefactor, she met the eyes of William Allan Neilson, President of Smith College from 1917 to 1939, who tipped his hat to her.
• Comedian Lewis Black’s mother was a substitute teacher in city classrooms, some of them very tough. Usually, a substitute teacher would have a rough time of it, but not Mrs. Black because she had a very sharp tongue and a mastery of sarcasm. One tough kid asked her why he had to learn the subject she was teaching, and she replied, “Because when you are pumping my gas at the Sears Station, where you have been for 10 years because you didn’t get your diploma, I don’t want to waste any breath saying ‘I told you so.’”
• Some lessons need to be learned at exactly the right time. For example, Ralph Nader’s mother used to teach her children about health when they were ill. She told Ralph, “When you were sick, I gave you your lessons on health. There was no more receptive time than when you were in the middle of chicken pox, mumps, whooping cough, and measles.” Of course, the lessons she taught were about such things as eating the right foods and getting enough exercise and sleep.
• Kosen was a master calligrapher, but he had a student who was very critical of his work. While Kosen drew the words “The First Principle” for a temple, his student watched him and criticized strongly every calligraphic attempt — 84 in all — Kosen made. Finally, the student went outside. Freed from the student’s criticism, Kosen drew the words “The First Principle.” When the student came back, he saw his master’s writing, and he pronounced the calligraphy a masterpiece.
• Athletes sign lots of autographs, and some athletes’ signatures are written more carefully — and legibly — than other athletes’ signatures. Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine’s signature was especially legible because his teachers had taught him that he should take pride in his name. One fan remarked on the legibility of his signature, and Mr. Erskine told her that he had learned to do that from his teachers. Beaming, the fan replied, “I’m a teacher.”
• John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, grew up in a strictly religious family that allowed him to read only one book: the Bible. However, he resisted this rule and borrowed books from neighbors because he wanted to acquire an education. After much arguing with his father, he was finally allowed to read other books — as long as he woke up early and read them before dawn. Frequently, young John woke up at 1 a.m. to begin reading.
• One day the governor of Kyoto wanted to see the Zen teacher Keichu, so he gave Keichu’s attendant his card, which read, “Kitagaki, governor of Kyoto.” The attendant took the card to Keichu, who looked at it, then said, “Tell him to get lost.” When the attendant returned with the card and the message, Kitagaki thought a moment, then scratched “governor of Kyoto” off the card and sent it back to Keichu, who welcomed him.
• When Sir Winston Churchill was a boy at a boarding school he didn’t like, the headmaster sent for him and told him, “Churchill, I have grave reason to be displeased with you.” The future Sir Winston replied, “And I, sir, have grave reason to be displeased with you.” And when an upperclassman caned him, the nine-year-old future Prime Minister told the upperclassman, “I shall be a greater man than you.”
• As a female student in medical school in the late 19th century when that was unusual, Maria Montessori showed unusual dedication. When a snowstorm battered Rome, Ms. Montessori still made it to class, even though the bottom of her dress was wet from the deep snows. That day, she was the only student to show up for the class. The professor did not cancel the class, but instead lectured to her alone.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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