The impact of my favorite teacher and changing plans

Recently I stumbled across a magazine article asking middle-age Americans to name their favorite teacher (K-12) and the reason for the selection.

?Hmmm,? I thought as I read through the responses. While I could easily specify my favorite coach, selecting a favorite teacher required some thought.

After about 30 minutes of thought on years that seemed a century ago, I had it, my senior English instructor.

Mrs. Hofer had moved to my hometown my junior year of high school following her marriage to the owner of the town?s hardware store.

My senior year would be her first year of teaching ? at the high school level. Previously, she was an English instructor at the University of South Dakota.

That prior teaching experience created considerable apprehension among my classmates. She was a college teacher, we thought, and that will add to the rigor of the course.

We were spot on. Senior English was arguably the most difficult course I took in my first 12 years of schooling, but also the most beneficial.

Mrs. Hofer didn?t wow us with her humor. In fact, I can?t remember her smiling the whole school year. She meant business and it only took us about 15 minutes to realize it.

Senior English was a composition course and we wrote, wrote and wrote some more.

I barely recognized my first writing assignment after it passed through her hands because the red ink far exceeded the black ink. Wow, I thought, am I that bad of a writer?

Eventually, things did improve. The red marks greatly decreased in quantity. Although I didn?t realize it at the time (and probably for years afterward), she may have had the greatest impact on my writing ? from a mechanical standpoint. In the years that followed, Mrs. Hofer began smiling and loosened up and became a favorite of students.

Switching gears, I?m sure you?ve heard the saying ? ?failure to plan is planning to fail.? I?m not going to claim to be a meticulous planner, but I compose a rough draft of my day in my mind over the first cup of coffee in the morning. Of course, some times the day?s events amend those early-morning plans, but on most days, the rough draft is fairly comparable to what transpires during the day.

Maybe it?s an age thing, but in recent years, I have noticed that a radical change in the day can lead to considerable stress.

Such was the case this past Tuesday. By 9 a.m., I had my day fairly well planned out. A half-hour later, I received a phone call from the nurse of a neurologist I had seen the previous Friday (and a neurologist I had been waiting two months to see).

She said special arrangements had been made for me to see a neurosurgeon at 2:30 p.m. that day at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinic and it was possible that surgery would be done that day. I protested loud and clear, but it became obvious that nothing I would say was going to change the situation.

Barb Welander, my great friend and one of the nicest people you will ever meet, gave up her afternoon and took me to the appointment, which extended into the evening.

While I learned that surgery is forthcoming, I also learned there was considerable disagreement regarding its urgency. Yes, surgery is scheduled next month. That gives me time to prepare.

It was a good thing I kept the appointment, but it would have been better to have more than five hours advance notice.