Guest Writers

Dear Mr Reichert by KD Sullivan

There she is!

I don’t exactly know through whom or when I met KD Sullivan, but I know I liked her right away. Her blog, Journey to Epiphany is filled with beautiful posts that have inspired me. KD has been a number one supporter to me from the moment I asked for help with this project. She has been waiting a long time for this post to go live.

But KD is nothing if not patient. She is a gentle, true spirit. And I urge you to check out what she has done at her place. One of my most favorite posts is called “Painting Grace Graffiti or How I Almost Quit Blogging.”

You should absolutely follow her on Twitter @kdsullivan. And her new Facebook page is here!

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Dear Mr. Reichert

At the time, Mr. Reichart was under-appreciated. We thought he was just plain weird. He had the worst comb-over I’d ever seen: badly dyed, jet-black hair started two fingers above the top of his ear and swept over his otherwise void-of-hair head. With bulbous eyes, slightly yellowed skin and a thin frame, he looked like a character in an old Peter Lorrey film. He always wore a short-sleeved dress shirt. But the most interesting thing about Mr. Reichart’s appearance was the wad of spittle that moved from his top lip to his bottom lip. I used to take guesses as to which lip the spittle would settle at the end of class.

Despite his geeky appearance, Mr. Reichart was the best English Literature teacher. Ever. I remember very little about high school, and even less about actual class time in high school, but I have three very vivid memories of this wonderful teacher’s class.

The first was when he taught a unit on English poets. He asked a question that I’ve never forgotten. He asked:

“Would you rather have some one tell you that they love you despite your faults, or someone who pretends to be blind to them?”

At the time I thought I’d rather have someone be blind to them, but as wisdom and maturity have taken their toll on a horribly flawed me, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather the first.

Portrait of Chaucer from a manuscript by Thoma...
Image via Wikipedia

Mr. Reichart made us memorize the Prologue to Canterbury Tales by Chaucer in old English! He told us that some day, we would see each other in a bar and repeat it…and if my memory was good enough to recognize or even remember any of the students in his class, I would still be able to quote it. Verbatim. And because I home-schooled my children, I made them memorize it as well.

My last memory of this eccentric man was that he created a holiday. He called it Lacey Day. It doesn’t happen on the same day every year, and in the Chicago area usually comes in early May. It occurs the first day the tree leaves are barely unfolding; when you look toward the sky you will find a tapestry of green lace.

I don’t know if Mr. Reichart is still alive, but I have much to thank him for. He sparked a love in me for English literature. He treated me — and all of his students — as though we were already adults with his talk of love and meeting in bars. He believed we could do hard things. But most importantly, he taught me how to make a holiday out of the common, and find beauty in the every day. So for a couple of days each spring, I look up to the tops of the trees and remember dear Mr. Reichert.

What literature did you have to memorize in school? Can you still do it? Which former teacher of yours would you like to meet in a bar? What drink would you order him or her? What would you have?

40 thoughts on “Dear Mr Reichert by KD Sullivan

  1. Love this post, but most especially its beautiful conclusion!

    I think you know my answer to the question, but I’ll say it anyway: Mrs. Stamm! She was a hoot even without alcohol. But I’d have an India Pale Ale anyway, because I can’t resist those things. :p

  2. I remember having to recite “The Song of Hiawatha” in 4th grade. Mrs. Oliver, my teacher, had us really enunciate the word “moon” and I remember I really over-enunciated it.

    By the shores of Gitche Gumee
    By the shining Big-Sea-Water
    Stood the wigwam of Nokomis
    Daughter of the Mooooooooooon, Nokomis

    Like for 3 good seconds.

    She didn’t like that very much.

    If I could go out with any old teacher, I would pick my old college professor Marvin Bram. He used to love to take walks in the springtime, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to take one with him. We drank a little tea together at his kitchen table. I felt so special that he invited me into his home, into his life. I’d love him to know that whenever I hear the word “fusion” or “Mesopotamia,” I absolutely think of him. He was truly an amazing educator.

    Thank you for being here today, KD.

    Off to tweet your greatness.

  3. I would like to meet Sister Mary Albert, my ninth grade English teacher would made us memorize Portia’s “The Quality of Mercy is Not Strained” from The Merchant of Venice” which I can still recite today and which I sent to President Bush in a letter a few years back (long story, but I got a letter back from an aid). We would have a glass of red wine together because it seems appropriate (even though I am Muslim and shouldn’t drink alcohol). It just seems to go with the period. She also taught me eleventh grade English and MacBeth. I loved mer with all my heart and still do. She taught me so much. I wanted to take her art class but my mother wouldn’t let me. I had to take typing instead. I was crushed and have always regretted it. Here’s to you Sister Mary Albert. The quality of mercy is not strained.

      1. What a Renaissance woman! Did she make you recite:

        Tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace
        Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
        To the last syllable of recorded time;
        And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
        The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
        Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
        That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
        And then is heard no more. It is a tale
        Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
        Signifying nothing.

        I still remember that from 10th grade. Goosebumps.

  4. I would love to meet my government and geography teacher, Kevin Reid at a bar. He was my football coach first, then friend, then teacher. He used to come over my house (he and my dad coached together) to shoot pool and hang out with us. I still vividly recall one snow day he came over for the entire day. We did nothing but play pool, watch movies, and eat. My brother made (and burned) pudding. Reid took the whole pot, sat it in his lap and ate the whole thing by himself all the while exclaiming how terrible it was.

    Were I to meet him in a bar, I would have a Jerry Collins. It’s gin (Hendrick’s or Bombay Sapphire please!), grapefruit, and a splash of club soda. Trust me, it’s brilliant. Even non-gin drinkers love it.

    1. It was always a privilege to have an inside look at a teacher, wasn’t it? …and speaking of pudding, I’ve been eating a lot of hot, sugar-free, Chocolate pudding these days…YUM!

  5. I remember I had to memorize something in French for my French class (obviously) but you can’t bet the house that I don’t remember one word. There was my 6th grade math teacher, Mrs. Zunker, a stern woman who didn’t smile too much. But then, we learned how to multiply fractions and she broke out in song and dance. “Multiplyin’ fractions ain’t no problem. It’s the top times the top and the bottom by the bottom.” You can be sure I’ll pass this number onto my kids…

    1. My dear Jen,
      How good of you to visit me here! I think that you should consider making this song and dance a vlog! Please??? How fun to have an otherwise stern teacher break out into song and dance!

  6. Such a great teacher!
    Luckily I never had to recite any literature. If I did, I blocked it from memory since it would have mortified me! I have always had a fear of public speaking…

  7. Such a wonderful memory you have of Mr. Reichart. Thank you for writing and sharing. I went to a school that required lots of recitation…so glad I learned what I know back then, because it’s harder to memorize now. “Invictus”, “The Children’s Hour”, “I wandered lonely as a cloud”, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” “The Deacon’s Masterpiece” was delightful. I have Mrs. Franklin in 7th grade to thank for several and Mrs. Galloway in 9th for the others.

    1. Oh my! You are fortunate indeed! Looking back on my career as a home school teacher, I wish I would have made my children memorize more. It’s hard to inspire memorization now that there’s Google.

  8. Once, upon a midnight dreary
    While I pondered, weak and weary
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

    While I nodded, nearly napping
    Suddenly there came a tapping
    As if someone gently rapping, rapping on my chamber door.

    `’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered,
    `tapping at my chamber door –
    Only this, and nothing more.’

    Whew. That’s been in the recesses since 8th grade, or about 35 years. (Do not feel the need to do the math. I am old.)

  9. Mrs. Hollingshead, my English teacher in high school. She made a game out of never wearing the same outfit twice. She used the same sweater, belt, skirt, pants, shirt and made a million different outfits. It made me see the details I might have overlooked before. Not even sure if that was what she was trying to accomplish, but it worked for me!

    1. How fun is that? It’s amazing how many different outfits you can get out of a few pieces of clothing. I think we’re spoiled these days. Sometimes when laundry is piling up, I’ll figure out something to wear that I never would have if I had everything clean….Thanks for visiting me here, friend.

  10. I had to memorize the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling, and although I can’t recite it perfectly, I think of many of the lines even now, 25 years later. I had several teachers who made a huge impact on my life, even a college English Lit. professor who, at the time, I couldn’t stand! It’s amazing what maturity will do to a person.

  11. Love this post.

    I make all 8th graders memorize a 17 line speech (Titania) from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve been at my school long enough that the 12th graders will wander by, wait, and want to show me they can still recite it. In addition to memorizing, though, I teach memorization techniques.

    In tenth grade, I memorized one of Antony’s speeches. I don’t remember the line breaks but it starts like this:

    Good friends, sweet friends, Let me not stir you up to such a sudden flood of mutiny. They that have done this deed are honourable. What private griefs they have, alas, I know not what made them do it. They are wise and honourable and will no doubt with reasons answer you.

    I also remember many French poems from elementary school and most of Luther’s Small Catechism (from Sunday School!)

    1. Um…need a blog post about the memorization techniques! Like I’ve said before, I’d love to be a fly on the wall of your classroom…especially for your lesson on insulting one another Shakespeare style!

  12. Generally, I was horribly put off learning by heart (you know why, Renee, it was that Miss F woman), and yet I value many of the things I CAN remember, from Shakespeare and Alexander Pope to Wilfred Owen. Actually, though, I’m much more likely to break into joyful recitations of the books my children and I shared together ( ‘Mr Magnolia has only one boot. He has an old trumpet that goes rooty-toot – And two lovely sisters who play on the flute – But Mr Magnolia has only one boot…..’ Quentin Blake – or ‘Whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot, we’ll weaher the weather whatever the weather, whether we like it or not’, and so on. It may not be John Donne, but it brings back such happy memories!

  13. I love it! Even though my children are older now I still remember a few…One fish. Two fish….but my favorite? I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be…

  14. Thanks, K.D… you made me smile : ) Lacey Day…what a fun idea!

    I don’t recall my English teacher made us memorize anything (and if she did, I forgot) but I do remember she had us take this test to see if we were more right or left-brain dominant. I think I leaned slightly more to the right.

  15. I’m from the Philippines and we had to memorize this pilipino poem! The thing is I was bad in pilipino and had a translated to english version which did not do me any good! What a wonderful teacher Mr. Reichart was, it would be great if you could find him and tell him so!

  16. Thank you for a lovely post! I love the idea of Lacey Day, for I often like to look up at the sky through the leaves of a tree and it is a sight to behold. My favorite teachers were also English teachers, Mr. Perma (grade school), Miss Murphy (junior high) and Miss Stern (high school). They were warm and funny and devoted to teaching. They instilled in us a love of learning. Mr. Perma would take us outside the classroom and we’d sit under an oak tree and listen to him read to us. We always looked forward to the next chapter. Miss Murphy and Miss Stern were funny, fun and inspiring. I fell in love with writing because of these two teachers. And I’m grateful to all three for all their lessons and because they expanded my horizons.

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