The English Teacher

I always dreamed having that perfect English teacher. You know the type: quirky, intelligent, passionate about their work, and able to inspire their students with seemingly no effort whatsoever. Those kind of teachers don't come along too often though, and I was already half way through grade twelve so it seemed there was little hope for me ever getting the perfect teacher.

Then Mrs. Smith had a baby. She had been my teacher through grades ten to twelve, but having a baby makes it slightly more difficult to come in and teach a bunch of annoying teenagers about Canadian literature. I was expecting some old man teacher to come in and bore us to death, because that's what happened to the students the last time Mrs. Smith had to leave school for a while. I had finally accepted the fact that my final half of grade twelve English would be an utter bore, when Mr. Harper walked into the building.

He looked like a hippy. He had long curly brown hair that he kept in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. Black made up his wardrobe, and he seemed to have an abundance of black pants and dress shirts. Living in a small rural town, most people were not excited at the idea of this 'hippy' teacher, but I was intrigued. The intrigue of the situation only grew when I walked into the classroom on his first day.

Upon the walls were posters of caricatures of famous literary figures, literary devices, and The Blues Brothers. Above the white board, was a piece of paper with a quote from Dead Poet's Society: "O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It's from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you're slightly more daring, O Captain my Captain." Just standing in that classroom, I knew that something special was about to happen.

Once everyone was seated, Mr. Harper stepped up in front of the class. He introduced himself, and gave us a short speech which was so casual and yet so put together both at once. In it he touched on hoping to help us learn, and spoke of his hope that we would call him 'O Captain my Captain'. I looked around the room and saw people rolling their eyes, but I smiled. I knew that if I had been a little bolder, I would have gladly called him 'O Captain my Captain'.

In that first day with Mr. Harper, I was inspired – and we didn't even learn anything! It was in that one hour with him that I realized I had found the perfect English teacher. I could not stop smiling the entire day as I thought about his class and the classes that were to come. Suddenly, I wasn't going to dread school anymore. In fact, I was dying for the next day to come so that I could sit in Mr. Harper's class again.

All through the rest of the semester, things just kept getting better. I was a shy person, but suddenly being in front of the class didn't matter so much anymore, nor did raising my hand to answer or ask a question. I was a fast reader, and so had a different book sitting on the corner of my desk nearly every day, and Mr. Harper always asked me about my current read. It was great to be able to talk books with a teacher who was so interested in them, and interested in my opinions about them.

I learnt so much in that semester with Mr. Harper; more than any of my other years of English combined. He truly inspired me, and made me want to go to school. If it wasn't for Mr. Harper, none of my high school years would have been memorable.

Thank you Mr. Harper, O Captain my Captain. You truly were the perfect English teacher.