Letters From A Devastated Artist (2)

“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality” -Beatrix Potter

Dear Teacher,

Why does our school reward mediocrity? Teacher, do you even know what that word means? By the way, I learned that word and many more at home at the age of six from a Mom who cared about my vocabulary more than you will ever care. She also cared passionately that I knew the layers beneath the words. So that is how I have the words and layers to ask this question. Why does the National Association of Educators care more about their political agenda than my education? Why do they feel that leveling the playing ground for everyone is fair? Or even ethical? Why am I required to be in a study group with 3 people that do not give a sh*t (their words) about the assignment? Why must I be ashamed when I’m afraid to do the work because they will think I’m a sissy?

I would like to say thanks for nothing to Mrs. H. at Ringgold High School for teaching me zero about the art of Social Sciences. Do you think I didn’t notice when you came to class day after day unprepared? Do you not realize I have feelings when you act as if I don’t exist? When I see you day after day talk only to the popular kids and use my class time to plan the prom?

Oh, and Mrs. V., do you think I didn’t see the surprise and even disappointment (and veiled disgust) in your face when you called this seventeen-year-old into your guidance office and looked at my clothes and hair and asked who I am? And I ask “Why, am I in trouble?” and you say “No” and proceed to ask how could I have possibly made the highest grade in the history of the school on the ACT test when she has never even met me. And how she couldn’t understand how the all-RHS Mr. & Mrs. Valedictorian & Salutatorian made nine points less than me. There must be some mistake. Miss Guidance Counselor, do you not realize I have feelings like a real person?

But a huge thanks for everything to Mr. Thomas at East Lake Jr. High School. You taught me far more than history. You taught me (contrary to my racist upbringing) that a man of color can be brilliant, articulate, sensitive and creative. Long before our current President, you helped me realize in 1971, in a city filled with racial tension, that any American regardless of skin color can be anything they dream to be, IF they are rewarded for effort and aspiration — not mediocrity and laziness. You alone sir, four years later were responsible for my one point from a perfect score in the history portion of the ACT. You taught me not to memorize, but to absorb and absolutely love history with every fiber of my being.

Mr. Thomas, your creativity inspires me to this day, over 39 years later. Thanks for making dead people come alive and seemingly irrelevant events throb with meaning to the artistic and sensitive soul in me. Oh yeah, and thanks for the milkshakes to the five of us on the WINNING history team. Thanks for rewarding intelligence, effort and academic excellence. And maybe more importantly, for teaching me that the color of a person’s skin should be invisible, that it is the heart that really matters.



17 Responses to “Letters From A Devastated Artist (2)”

  1. These are beautiful Randy. As one who will be graduating with an Advance Technology Education degree soon, it resonates with me.

    Keep 'em coming!

  2. So very often intelligence is defined by the world as compliant behaviors….neat, organized, conforming, cute, and confident…..when it has so little to do with that at all….and intelligence isn't simply the ability to think brilliantly fast, but to employ the abilities and gifts which one is given, to engage in life, to think well, to create, to be vibrantly involved in using that which God has given us for the best use of its ability for others and for self…that is intelligence in my book…the rest is simply the acknowledgement of skills learned or behaviors, not intelligence.

  3. Thanks so much, Rocco. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation!

  4. Will there be a part 3? This sounds like the beginnings of your next book maybe.

    I had a 4th grade teacher, Mr. Booker, who was very much like your Mr. Thomas. He engaged our minds and imaginations – bringing history to life in the classroom. We need more teachers like Mr.'s Thomas and Booker.

  5. Yes we do, Michelle. Yes, there will be a part 3 & 4 & probably 5. Hmmmmm.

  6. I'm still amazed the way things from school can come back to bite you. I remember when I was in 11th grade I was given three days of detention for something I didn't do. The kid who did do it was overheard by another teacher laughing about someone else was blamed for what he did. Did the assistant principal void my punishment? Nope. He made me serve it in an empty room in the school office so my presence in detention wouldn't cause a scene. The guy couldn't even admit that he punished the wrong person but it taught me the importance of admitting when I was at fault. Still sticks with me 22 years later.

  7. In Jr High I had a social studies teacher named Mr Langford. You could have been writing about him instead of Mr. Thomas. He was an inspiration to me. I also had a Mr Smith who did what you could do to humiliate me in front of the class and tear me down. There were lessons learned from both teachers. I'm loving these Randy.

  8. Tejasfan,

    Great teachers are never forgotten. And I suppose, bad teachers, either.

  9. Dear Randy,

    Both of your "letters" are right on! They did not learn a thing from Columbine – did they?

    I agree with one of your comments from #1 – I was also crying this morning when I read it! My son has been bullied since he was in third grade – (6th grade now – he is an artist not a jock). You are giving hope to mothers everywhere – especially those of us who know you!


  10. Okay, as a high school teacher, I want to stand up at least for the teachers in my school. We work very hard to meet the needs of our students–we do everything we can to make sure every kid is covered by someone who cares. For example, we have a daily activity and intervention period with students that stay with us all four years of high school (mine are juniors this year). We have a committee that meets on a once-a-week basis to go over a list of students who are struggling. And, we are held to increasingly tighter standards (often imposed by the federal government as unfunded mandates).

    With all of the effort we're expending, one would think our students would be successful. Yet, some of them are not because they and/or their parents are not doing their part. Society hires us to teach every young person basic knowledge that will help each one make it as an adult. Education is much more than basic knowledge, but the student holds the responsibility to make his or her education happen. Someone who wants to learn will learn!

  11. Can’ t wait for the rest …well let’s be honest, I love ALL your writing Randy!


  1. uberVU - social comments - March 24, 2010

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by randyelrod: Are you an artist?Have you ever felt alone?I just posted my 2nd in a series”Letters From A Devastated Artist” http://ow.ly/1qnmR

  2. Tweets that mention Letters From A Devastated Artist (2) | RANDY ELROD | Creating Culture | Influencing Influencers -- Topsy.com - March 24, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Carol Asher, Sweetie (Shan) Berry, Sweetie (Shan) Berry, Randy Elrod, Randy Elrod and others. Randy Elrod said: Great conversation around my new post "Letters From A Devastated Artist" (Part 2) Join in on the conversation! http://ow.ly/1qsqj […]

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