To My “Baddest” Teacher

“Your college professors will hate me for this,” is how my English teacher in the 10th grade at Louise High School started a lesson on “common usage.”  He wrote on the blackboard:

–          “Bad”

–          “Badder”

–          “Baddest”

He explained that if you were comparing cars and you claimed one of them was “bad” (as in “awesome”), then a car that was even more awesome would be “badder.” The car that was even cooler than those two would be the “baddest one!

Yes it would. And college professors reading this now might be cringing. So what?

I could see the jocks in the class who would usually never have paid much attention in an English class were laughing and enjoying the lesson. Some were even taking notes! He had their attention and he kept it, which is no small task when dealing with kids just starting to hear about this thing called sex, suffering from changing biology, and who couldn’t care less about guys named Faulkner, Steinbeck, or Shakespeare. Mr. Stanley understood that knowing your audience and capturing their imagination is just the first step in giving them information that will stay with them for a lifetime.

That lesson was years ago but it seems like yesterday.

This past week, Jim Stanley retired from his job as an English teacher in the Louise ISD. He wrote this on this Facebook page:

“Just got home from work for the last time. Retirement starts now. About to spark a Montecristo 2 and pour a wee dram of Glenmorangie Lasanta single malt. Life is good.

But, I’m sure going to miss those kids.”

The kids will miss you, Mr. Stanley.

In the years since that “bad” lesson, I became fascinated with the idea that communication is all about taking an idea in my head and putting it in your head – no matter how I do it and regardless of whether it conforms to somebody’s arbitrary rules. For example: You might not like how I’ve written this blog entry so far, but you’re still reading and you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Listening to and absorbing a great story then being able to impart it to an audience is truly one of the greatest joys of my life. It’s the main skill I used when winning an Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Journalism and when the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters decided in 2010 I had done the best interview in Texas.

I’ve stayed in touch with Jim Stanley over the years and we’ve stayed friends even after I chose to skip college and go straight to work as a broadcaster. Jim told me not long ago that he had shown videos of me on TV to his students and said “That is a Louise student! You can do anything you want!”

Yes they can, but only because they’ve had a teacher like Jim Stanley to help open their minds to the possibilities in front of them.

Not bad at all.

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