The Wise Teachings of Cody Randall Thomas.

I've been thinking about writing this post for days. I just didn't know how to begin. There's so much that all of us go through each day. We all have personal struggles, big and small. We all lose certain things, whether it be your favorite knit scarf or an old photo you were meant to keep.

Or a person.

Recently, a lovely soul passed away on this planet. He was a teacher of mine, but beyond teaching me about commas and grammar, he truly taught me about life and self expression. When I was in ninth grade, I was so incredibly shy. I could barely raise my hand in class and my voice was so quiet, you truly needed to stand right in front of me to hear me. I've grown from that with the help of my teacher, Mr. Thomas. If you've ever read the book, Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom, you know what amazing teachers there are. Morrie Schwartz was a fantastic sociology teacher at Brandeis University. Mitch Albom was his student, and they were friends for quite a long time. I suppose that's what I hoped for with a teacher as wonderful as Mr. Thomas, but he left this world before I expected it.

For two and a half years, Mr. Thomas has helped me improve my writing tremendously. As I am in love with writing, this meant the universe to me. He pushed me to enter poetry competitions and to submit my writing to more places. After I conducted an interview with Brigette Muller, I asked him to read it and he wanted me on the newspaper he ran. He even gave me a tour of the Inklings office one Tuesday afternoon. So I took Journalism last semester, but life interfered afterward, he passed away, and I wonder if he'll ever read another one of my articles/pieces of poetry/stories/crazy letters to some publishing company that does not want a poetry book by me just yet.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that Mr. Thomas had such a great impact on my life. The things he taught me about writing and about life will take me far. I haven't ever truly experienced a death that affected me so much before, and I attended my first funeral this morning. I didn't stop crying. I didn't care who was watching me. I just cried. It felt good in the end and it was a good closure for me. Three people gave me hugs, and that made me feel so much better. Also, when I reached out to Mr. Thomas's mother to shake her hand, she just stared at me for a moment. I had no idea if I was doing something wrong. How was I suppose to know? I was a child at my first funeral. But then, she said, "you are so tiny."

I am so tiny. It is very true. But, I couldn't respond. I shook her hand and moved on my way after telling her how wonderful her son was. Little did she know, she did actually make my day much better. Mr. Thomas did something similar to me a couple years ago. He asked me and a friend of mine to stay after class, and I had no idea what I did wrong. It was terrifying. But then, he looked at us and said that we got the best grades on some essay we had to write. We just handed it in late. Thinking back on it, it was just a fantastic moment.

There was also another time when I was telling him about how I didn't do my homework. I said something along the lines of, "Sorry, my mom just had a baby so I didn't get to get it done."
And he went something like, "That's fine just- wait what?"
Again, this was two years ago, I don't remember the conversation word for word, but that was the gist of it.

One more memory for when my soul grows old: I once shared a poem with him and asked if it could be one of his Philosophical Quotes of the Day, but to keep it anonymous. As someone asked about it, he quickly made sure to keep me anonymous and shot me a quick, secret wink. It was a wonderful moment in building my writing confidence. Not to mention, he somehow got that poem in Soundings, a literary journal at my school.

After a week of sadness, I'm finally beginning to feel more okay again. I don't believe his spirit is lost, because he will always live on in my heart. The wisdom that my 27 year old teacher had was incredible.

Now, as I spent time reading articles about him over the past week, I came across an article he wrote for the CT Mirror. There, he posed the question, "Can a naïve, young teacher change the life of one student? Probably not, but he or she can hope." Now, this article was about teacher burnout. I'm not entirely familiar on the topic, for I am on the opposite side as a student. But, I could see where he was coming from. He explained that teaching kids is something that isn't so easy. As much as I'd like to say I've never given a teacher a hard time, the truth is that in the past, I have. Luckily, I've improved the way I am much much more. I show respect and kindness, and I even make little gifts from time to time (I'm a crafting nerd, it's a well known fact).

I would like to ask a question now. Can students make a more positive impact on a teacher's life? As students are stressed out, teachers are too. We complain about doing work that they most likely spent valuable time creating for us. By refusing to do work or consistently giving them a hard time, we are poorly impacting them.

So can we do it? Can we truly make a teacher's life any easier or happier than it was before? In Mr. Thomas's article, he stated, "Teachers need to work with kids instead of in opposition to them." Maybe it's time that students work with teachers as well. This is a two sided adventure that we must pursue together. After all, we do deserve happiness.

I hope that when Mr. Thomas left, he knew he positively impacted so many students. I wonder how different I would be if I wasn't so blessed to have such wonderful teachers, especially Mr. Thomas. I really wish I got the chance to know him better, but for now, I know to appreciate every soul I have in my life until the final light of the sun gives out.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me all week with hugs and sweet words because you made everything much easier.

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