Today I ran into two of my teachers from junior high and high school and was reminded of why I want to be an English teacher. As I was chatting with one of them, she mentioned my favorite junior high English teacher, Mrs. M. I had Mrs. M in the eighth grade and haven’t kept in touch with her (though, I might just try finding her in the phone book to send her a thank you card). She was by far my favorite teacher that I had in junior high. And now that I’m thinking about it, she’s probably the reason why I fell in love with reading, writing, and why I want to be a teacher.
We studied so many topics in her class but the only thing I remember was reading “The Diary of Anne Frank.” As some of you may know, I LOVE Anne Frank. Her diary changed my life and the way that I look at the world. If you haven’t read it, please go read it. It’s far more interesting than my blog. Anyhow, while we were studying the Holocaust, Mrs. M shared the poem “The Cold Within” by James Patrick Kinney. He wrote it in the eight grade and since then it’s become a very famous poem (you can read it here). After we read it as a class, she asked us in her sweet old lady voice, “What does it mean to die from the cold within?”
As an eighth-grader, I think I would’ve said something like, “To not let go of being prejudice against others” or “To not give someone your “stick of birch.” Or something along those lines. But now, as a twenty-two year-old, I would change that answer to a rather lengthy one:
It’s letting the darkness or hate or grudges or whatever take over. It’s letting prejudices stop you from doing something kind. It means living in misery and spite. It kills you spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically–and if you ask me, that doesn’t sound like a very pleasant way to die. Looking back at my eighth grade self, I didn’t think that dying from the cold within meant so much and more than what I’ve touched on.
Granted, we all have our grudges and are imperfect people. We all make mistakes. We all have to make our own choices. For me, I’ve always believed that everyone has genuine good in them. But that causes me to pause and think about why we all hold onto the cold at times. How come we can’t let it go? . . . [Please don’t start singing “Let It Go” from Frozen] . . . What does it mean to die from the cold within? So tell me, dear readers, what are your thoughts on the cold within?
We’ll cover the “Why I Want To Be A Teacher” part soon…but I’ll give you a hint: It has something to do with wanting to help them grow, learn, and how their “stick of birch” matters in the world.