The teacher who inspired Joni Mitchell

We all love ‘inspiring teacher’ stories, and this one‘s a dilly. But see below for my awkward question:

[Joni] Mitchell was drawn to art, but “growing up just at the time before arts were included as a part of education… at that time I was kind of a freak.” In seventh grade, she had “one radical teacher… a reverer of spirit… He criticized my habit of copying pictures. No one else did. They praised me as a prodigy for my technique. ‘You like to paint?’ he asked. I nodded. ‘If you can paint with a brush you can paint with words.’ He drew out my poetry. He was a great disciplinarian in his own punk style. We loved him… I wrote an epic poem in class – I labored to impress him. I got it back circled in red with ‘cliché, cliche.’ ‘White as newly fallen snow’ – ‘cliche’; ‘high upon a silver shadowed hill’ – ‘cliche.’ At the bottom he said, ‘Write about what you know, it’s more interesting.’” Mitchell talked about “going out after the rain and gathering tadpoles in an empty mayonnaise jar,” and he suggested she put her experience in writing. Mitchell’s debut album included a dedication to the teacher, “Mr. Kratzman, who taught me to love words.”

So here is my question. When did you last make the time to be a Mr Kratsman for one of your students? And if you saw an opportunity, but did not take it, what was the more important use of your time that prevented you? Marking? Form-filling? Sitting in a meeting?

Told you it was awkward.


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