The best advice I ever got from anyone about anything came from a man named Bob Stevens.
Bob Stevens was the father of my best friend. He was a big man, an athlete. He taught junior high. He was a coach.
I couldn't even imagine calling him Bob. He was always Mr. Stevens to me.
I remember how he could carry his daughters and me around without effort. That means he carried four girls, who clung to him like shrieking morning glories.
He had one glass eye, and sometimes he would leave it out and in the room with us so that we would behave.
He never called me Kristen. He would roar "Pelfrey!". It felt like a roar, even though I don't remember him ever raising his voice.
I adored him.
When we were in junior high he was paralyzed in a bicycling accident.
He became an avid wheelchair athlete.
So one day I am at my old high school, and I went to ask him about teaching. I was in the credential program and I had doubts. Not about the kids. About the system.
I was miserable in the requisite Little House on the Prarie de rigeur outfits I was supposed to wear. Those outfits counted for a lot in getting through the program.
So I meet Bob, and he looks at me and my dumb outfit and my notebook full of rigid, seven-point(less) lesson plans. He sees my wretchedness writ large.
He picked up one leg and crossed it over the other.
"Pelfrey," he said. "Love them no matter what. Run class like a football practice."
And he wheeled off.
He had a workout to do.
His words became my mantra.
You have to love the kids in a real, true, clear sense.
Not in a greeting-card kind of way, or a warm-fuzzy kind of way. Or a yearbook-signing kind of way, or a bunny-stamping kind of way.
You have to see them for who they are, see the worlds of possibilities inside them, and push/whisper/gentle/sing/shout/ them toward those worlds.
Every single moment you have them you must do things that move them forward in some way.
And, if you think about it, his advice holds true for writing. Good writing.
I think you know what I mean.
I, and many, many others, miss Mr. Stevens in ways that cannot be numbered.