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作者:唐玥芳 | 来源:耀华国际教育学校上海古北校区

       The story I am going to tell is about my teacher of English and me. She comes from the West of the United States. She has been working with me on Academic English for a year and a half, and A Level English Language for seven months.

I prefer to call her “Miss”, without really adding her surname. It is a way I have invented to name my favourite teacher. We have so many different Misters, Mistresses and Misses at school, but whenever I use the title of “Miss” alone, it always refers to her.

We have not got many opportunities to discuss literature genres, especially in poetry. Yet still, I have prepared acrostics for her.

“Miss, what would you say about acrostics?”

“I have no idea what that is.”

Now I am writing you one to pay my utmost devoirs. Miss, Miss, would you ever have a chance to read my acrostics?


1. A - Always

Miss is always there.

That is no hyperbole. Whenever I want to talk to her, she is in 201 all the time. Sometimes I go ask questions too often that even her colleagues would joke about my frequent visits, but Miss never gets tired. We can talk for a whole two-period time, topics shifting from the most appropriate use of rhetorical devices to the variation of accents of different professors introducing discourse analysis on Youtube.

If there are non-academic problems causing confusion, she may even spend more time discussing with me, trying to find the best possible solutions.

I remembered how I wept in front of her when I ended the relationship with my first boyfriend and for nearly two hours after school she listened to me recall my bittersweet memories. I remembered how she hugged me hard, telling me she understood me and she totally knew how puppy love did hurt a lot for most ladies. I remembered how she encouraged me to cut clean with that boy but to keep the best times of the past in my chronicles. And she told me she would always be there.

I remembered when I had tough quarrels with my parents every night because I wanted to take English Language as an A Level elective while they turned me down. I talked to Miss, and she sat with me in the very light and warm sunshine of April afternoon, explaining to me the right ways of communicating with parents. She encouraged me to frankly explain all my thoughts with my parents at the dinner table rather than merely shouting at them. She told me how she understood me as a daughter in teenage years, but I would need to grow up through all troubles, fights and pains. We drafted an email together. She helped me revise my register of language, choice of lexis and pragmatics before I sent it out to Mama. On that day she was nearly late for her appointment with a doctor. And she told me she would always be there.

Ok, there are occasions when she is not in 201 when I need her because she has a million of meetings to attend every week. But metaphorically she is always there. I guess this is more important.


2. D - Dedication

Dedication can probably best define Miss as a teacher. She has about 20 classes to teach in a rotation of 6-day schedule ranging from the junior year levels to the seniors. Moreover, she has to handle my 8 extra English Language classes. As the Head of Language Department, she has much paperwork to do as well as meetings to organise or attend after school. At the same time, she is leading the school Ultimate Frisbee club, Yearbook club and Fitness club. Though she is so busy she always prepares hard for every class and even if she looks extremely exhausted, she never lets fatigue influence her teaching quality. I have come to the conclusion merely based on her performances in my class through Year 3 and Year 4, of course; but for someone like Miss, her dedication will not differ much based on students.


3. R - Recognition

Miss once mentioned the Maslow’s hierarchy. During her classes, I feel like going towards the highest level of self-actualisation all the time. Her recognition pins my starting stage in the hierarchy at the fourth level of self-esteem.

I told her I would like to be a teacher of English in the future. After that, she often brought up this on various occasions:

When Miss introduced Bloom’s Taxonomy in class and I responded with excitement and obvious enthusiasm in it, she said: “It’s good if you are interested in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Teachers use that when designing class plans. You may like it a lot in the future.”

When a friend of mine was absent for long and came to ask Miss questions about Deconstructionism and Structuralism, she appointed me to explain these concepts in literary criticism to him: “You shall be an expert in this. Go explain it. No worries I will be listening and if there is anything missing, I can help later. Let’s co-teach. It must be fun to co-teach with you.”

When I joked with her that I did not enjoy interacting with younger kids as I lacked patience easily, she became serious: “You should be patient. All teachers must be. For most of us, the best part of our career is students - even if a teacher finds himself really having difficulties getting along with some of them, he should be patient and keep trying. Not all students come into your class with satisfying academic performances or good characters, but that is why we need teachers. All students have the power to change. With patience and a lot more other efforts, you need to help them make positive changes.”

All these make me feel that Miss strongly believes that I will become a teacher, and a good one. She is the first one to show recognition to this extent. Whenever she talks about how to be a teacher, I know she has faith in me and wants to help me get ready, instead of giving simple and pale words of appreciation without really thinking about them. She means it when she says it. I can see myself sitting amongst students with a grammar book on my knees, I can see myself grading papers day and night, I can see myself cheering for the graduating class - I can see all these in Miss’ brown eyes.

I know I will not fail her recognition. I will be a teacher of English like Miss, a teacher of English better than Miss - though I strongly doubt if anyone from the past or the future could be better than her.


4. I - Insanity

Sometimes I do guess Miss is insane. Not all teachers of English would love working with me because I have been famous for bothering them since primary school. My essays of incredible lengths, my “overactive” responses in class and my questions after questions have endlessly tortured them.

We have counted once - I had 16 periods with her during a whole rotation of 42 periods. I was the only student in the school who had such a schedule which “allowed me to bother one teacher so often”. But Miss never told me she was bored or felt annoyed! Instead, she continuously expressed that she was happy to work with me.

Last winter every student needed to collect all the 5-paragraph essays, research papers, creative writings and literature analyses he had produced during the first semester in a portfolio. Students have given an average of 20 to 30 pages, while my portfolio turned out to be 131 pages. The moment when Miss heard of that she nearly spit out coffee onto her laptop screen. However, she “would be very happy to read through my portfolio” and went “from the overture to the postlude”. Was that not crazy?

Here lays another story. Our school does not provide English Language as an A Level elective, but as I wish to major in Linguistics I have to take it.

“I am planning to take English Language for CIE exams but...”

“Oh, I can help you with that.” Miss did not really ask anything before she immediately showed support, which shocked me.

After that simple start, my life had gone through dramatic changes. Miss and I talked to A Level Coordinator and the Principals for an approval of the proposal; we drafted special requests; finally, I had a unique schedule arranging English Language as an elective at school. It was a one-on-one elective.

Busy as she is, Miss has always tried to find time mentoring me, giving me numerous study guides and additional materials to read and grading through piles of past papers I have done. Throughout this autumn and winter, she has sacrificed much of her spare time struggling with my English Language. Once she pointed to me hundreds of papers piling up in her bookshelf. I thought they were homework from the whole year level for a semester, but they were my work. They were my writings in two months.

At that very moment, the first thought flashing across my mind was not how much I had written, but how much Miss had read through. Some pieces were not really well done and had to be revised again and again, but she never gave one single complaint.

I mean...honestly, she did not really have to take that responsibility to help me with my English Language studies. That was not in her contract with the school, and would probably never be included. Maybe at that instant when she made the promise she was insane - normally people would not burden themselves with more work when they were already buried by tasks.

Or maybe not. She might not necessarily have been insane. She has always just been “Miss”.


5. E - Encouragement

“You are the best ESL learner in the school.” We have had a placement test recently and my language level is at C1 in Common European Framework of Reference. There are classmates reaching C2. But Miss insists on saying so.

“You can get an A in A Level English Language.” Statistics show that 80,000 candidates sit the exam and only 5% of them can get A and above. I suppose an “A” in English Language is for native speakers, not me. But Miss insists on saying so.

“I’m proud of you.” I have brought Miss into quite a lot of troubles in and out of classes and I know clearly that I am not as outstanding as most people perceive I am. But Miss insists on saying so.

Miss has insisted on lots of different things. The magic is, no matter what she says, it sounds so real. At least so real to me.


6. N - Neuropsychology

Most people may guess that Miss majored in Linguistics or Literature, while it was Neuropsychology and her minor Creative Writing! I was quite surprised when I first knew this, but soon I realised that one’s major should never limit one’s knowledge and abilities. She has taught me with her own experience that besides major, one has a lot more possibilities and opportunities in life.

And to be a student of a psychologist is dangerous! Hazardous! And risky! Because she can detect all your negative emotions through observing your behaviour! She is always the first one to find out that something is wrong with me. But here is a benefit of being a student of a psychologist: Miss masters in listening, healing and giving advice.

Just a thought, but does giving good hugs count as a skill of successful psychologists?


7. N - Noel

My favourite festival is Christmas.

Miss always accuses me of my strange choice of lexis by yelling at me “Catherine! You and your vocabulary!” I know normally people won’t use “Noel”, but I like it more than the word “Christmas”. I can justify my decision on vocabulary using knowledge about rhetorical devices: It sounds like a French female name “Noelle”, which adds a personal touch to the festival itself. When a writer applies personification, it makes her writing more lively and interesting. In this case, calling Christmas “Noel” can portray this season of warmth as a lady smiling, running after Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer.

If I were asked to apply symbolism or metaphor to describe Miss, she definitely has a lot in common with Christmas. Both bring joy, hope and warmth.

Did I mention her middle name is Noelle, by the way?


8. E - E. E. Cummings

Miss’ favourite poet is E.E. Cummings. Mine is Robert Frost.

I once went to the library, trying to get myself a Frost poem collection and a Cummings one as well. It surprises me that the Frost book is so thin like a pocket edition, while the Cummings one is almost thicker than an Oxford Dictionary! I can understand most verses from Frost, yet Cummings confuses me a lot. However, I can feel that the horizons in Cummings’ poems are much broader, the skylines much longer and the insights much more profound. Part of Cummings is beyond my understanding, but I hear his call. He wrote “a connotation of infinity/sharpens the temporal splendour of this night”. He wrote rebelliously, transcending the boundaries that society put in place, leading us to seek the real beauty of the physical world, of humanity, of each individual’s brief moment upon the stage of life as one contemplates the infinite universe. That infinity is where I would like to reach in my future poem interpretation studies and all other aspects beyond.

Miss is the one who has deliberately introduced Cummings to me.

And honestly, without her, I would probably never ever sit down to think about all what I have stated above. She has introduced not only Cummings. She has urged me to discover the real meaning of writing - to which I devote most of my time. Before I met her, I only thought writing was fun. But now I consider more about the compulsion that drives me to put some part of myself on paper. “The self who emerges on paper should be far stiffer than the person who sat down to write.” In her class, I try my best to find the real me behind the tension of writing. I try to figure out the emotional luggage I bring along when writing. I write for humanity, I write for warmth.

We still have time before I graduate. Let’s read more Frost and Cummings, Miss. Let’s write more.

Even if I graduate, I will take what Miss has brought to me into college and into my career. The girl who reads the thinner and easier Robert Frost will finally grow into a lady who reads the thicker and more challenging E.E.Cummings. And she will always keep in mind where she started the first step towards that very “infinity”.




“Miss, what would you say about acrostics?”

“I have no idea what that is.”

  Here is one from me, only for my teacher of English Adrienne Goetz. Miss, Miss, did you find your given name in the acrostics? The stories are far more than eight letters. To summarise, you have made me a better person - so thanks.  

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