I have been reading a book about gratitude recently, and how to live everyday with gratefulness in your heart by showing all these different examples of people, things, and situations that people were expressing their gratitude for. While reading, I suddenly remembered someone I hadn’t realized how grateful I was for.
Mrs. Randa, my English teacher in 4th or perhaps 5th grade. She’s always been very encouraging of me and always gave me constructive feedback, as she’s done with every other student I’m sure.
However, I distinctively remember one day in particular, she looked at my homework—a writing composition—and after she gave me the usual feedback, she looked at me and said, “promise you won’t ever stop writing, because you are going to be a great writer when you grow up.”
While I did unfortunately stop writing fiction eventually in 2015, I still hold that comment in my heart. I still remember the expression on her face when she read my writing. I can still see her pale blue eyes looking at me with such generosity, ignoring that noisy classroom and the queue of other children waiting their turn to get their homework checked, and actually taking that moment to give me this feedback.
I vividly remember how I felt about it too. I remember how my eyes widened and a huge smile was drawn on my thin, little face, saying excitedly “I won’t!” in reply. This was at a time in my life where things were less than perfect. And I wasn’t really doing well in any other subject as far as I recall. I sucked at everything. But I never sucked at English, or German for that matter.
Speaking of amazing English teachers, Mr. Hatem, my English teacher in prep school, also comes to mind. This was the first teacher ever that made me feel like we are friends. He was so much fun to be around, he made me feel so welcomed in a class that I was the “new kid” in (which is a feeling I was very accustomed to, sadly).
He had given most of the students nicknames because he had been their teacher for years, so they had that kind of rapport; some had silly names, some had funny ones, he would say each nickname reflected the personality of the student.
I had just joined that school for a few weeks and he decided to give me a nickname already, this was kind of a big deal to me because it made me feel seen and included, I wasn’t that new kid sitting in the corner that no body really knows or notices.
Surprisingly, I still remember it, my nickname, and it wasn’t even funny or silly like most of the other students, it was almost flattering. He called me “Rana el Sokannana” (and saying it out loud now to spell it just made me chuckle). It is such a cute, endearing nickname, which is not a real word, it is a merge of two slang words “sokara = sweet” and “soghannana = tiny/small), so it would translate to something like “Sweet, Tiny Rana”.
This was also during a rough time in my life (I’ve had a couple of those) were I was having some health issues, and some of my teachers were kind and attentive enough to notice, and some didn’t notice or simply didn’t care. Mr. Hatem was one of those who not only noticed, but always made me feel like I had a friend to talk to if I needed to. I will never forget that.
Last but definitely not least, I will always be grateful that I had Mrs. Rania as my high school English teacher. I have always thought of her like this angel that was sent to me from above.
Apart from the fact she was the best teacher anyone could ask for, like seriously it was a brag to say Mrs. Rania was your English teacher. But she was also a great friend and mentor. I would confide in her and ask her for life advice about so many things, some were trivial, some were serious, and she would always give the best advice ever.
I believe you can tell from the advice and suggestion someone gives you whether they are just giving some generic advice to get it over with while still feeling good about themselves, or if they genuinely want to help and have given it some thought first. Her advice always proved she was the latter.
When listening to her, I remember sometimes I would think something like, “I want to be you when I grow up.” I might have actually blurted that out loud to her once.
Back then, I didn’t know if I was good at those subjects simply because they were my favourite subjects to learn, or because they were taught by my favourite teachers. I used to think I loved languages and that was why I was only good at English and German, but I guess that wasn’t true. Now that I think about it, I truly believe my teachers were the reason I was always good at those subjects, because I was also learning Arabic and French at the same time, and I sucked at both.
I moved schools six or seven times, so my teachers were always changing, yet my English and German teachers were always the most encouraging and attentive teachers in every school. I could never figure out the reason behind it, but I have always been grateful for it.
Reflecting on those moments now, I feel such warmth in my heart, and I realize those little encouraging words and friendly gestures, were probably subliminally the reason I love this language and have been writing in this language all those years, despite not really having any reason to continue. I have never really had any readers before I started this blog. Only a handful of people read a very small portion of my fiction writing, just for feedback.
But I neither had a real motivation or even resources to help me do it professionally. I had been writing since I was 7 years old, and I only took my first writing course when I was 23; yet, I had been writing consistently until that point.
I guess it’s no surprise that I grew up to be an English teacher as well. It is probably the one figure that I admired as a child. I can only hope to leave even tenth of the impression they left on me, on my students. For their student to still remember them more than a decade later is not a small feat, and despite how easy it might seem to leave that impression, you don’t see me writing an article thanking any of my other teachers. Not because they weren’t good teachers, but because it takes more than good teaching skills to be remembered all those years later.
Even though everyone around me did, growing up, I have never had anything to say as an answer to “who’s your role model?” Because I never had any. I guess I just never realized it before now.
My role models have always been my English teachers. And today I am grateful to every one of them.
What about you? What are you grateful for today?