When Teachers Delight in Students, Students Learn Their Worth

Bob Youngblood, 1943-2016

During my very last week of high school, every morning began with a creative conspiracy. It was implemented by giggling, teenage masterminds. Collectively, we struggled to stiffle our laugher as we waited for our teacher to enter the room. Each stunt stranger than the last, we pranked Mr. Youngblood five days in a row. Our very last days of public education were filled with practical jokes.

And what sort of pranks do teenage masterminds create? Fire alarms, smoke bombs, or egg smeared chalkboards? Not these teenagers. We were way too nerdy for that.

Mr. Youngblood entered the room to find us all wearing. . . Ayn Rand masks.

Ayn Rand masks! A classmate had actually taken the time to find an Ayn Rand image, blow it up, print twenty-five some odd copies, and glue them to sticks so we could hold them to our faces and greet Mr. Youngblood as he walked through the door. Once he did, there we were, dressed to the nines in our Objectivism best. He loved it.

I could say that Mr. Youngblood introduced us to Ayn Rand, but it was, in fact, the other way around. Before we ever met him in the classroom, he assigned The Fountainhead as summer reading. We entered our senior year ready to discuss that large work, and we were introduced to one of our best teachers.

In his English class, we learned how to analyze classic works of literature. We learned how to hone our unique voices as we wrote with greater nuance. We had spirited discussions, and we challenged each other. And we laughed. Every day, we laughed.

This last aspect of our experience has been on my mind lately. Within it, I recognize that a larger lesson was present all along. It was never sketched out as a lesson plan, but Mr. Youngblood embodied it in the classroom. It was both simple and profound: He delighted in us as students. He thoroughly enjoyed us as people.

Sure, we occasionally drove him crazy. But most often, he greeted us with a dry wit we also enjoyed. That wit accompanied our intentional learning and created spontaneous moments of playfulness. He believed in our voices. He delighted in us, and we knew it.

Bob Youngblood died two weekends ago, and I have been reflecting on this kind of legacy. Teachers impart great knowledge, but they are also in a position to teach a larger lesson of delight. When teachers delight in their students, their students come to know their own worth. From that awareness, they go on to learn in self-directed ways.

Since our Ayn Rand mask wearing days, my classmates and I have almost doubled in age. This astonishes me. Even more, I am amazed to consider who we have become. We have charted career pathways, formed families, and created meaning. Bob Youngblood would delight in all of this too, I am sure.

Robert Frost once wrote that poetry “begins with delight and ends in wisdom.” [1]

Good teachers spark delight and illumine human worth. From these gifts, a lifetime of learning continues.

-Renee Roederer

[1] Robert Frost wrote this in the foreword to his Collected Poems (1939).

4 thoughts on “When Teachers Delight in Students, Students Learn Their Worth

  1. Beautiful memorial, Renee. Bob would smile that unique Bob smile if he could read it, and all of us, both students and fellow teachers who loved him will smile also as we read your words. I will miss him at our monthly lunches and daily in my thoughts. We had an empty seat this month at our table.
    He and I spoke often of the students we came to love. You all meant so much to him, giving his life special joy and purpose!
    Hello and a big hug to you and all of those beautiful children who have grown into beautiful adults.
    MsV AKA Sandy VanOsdol

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    1. Oh my goodness, you should have heard my exclamation of utter delight when I saw you found my blog and commented. It’s been too long. Hello. 😃

      I could have written these words about you too! We also have so many wonderful stories and memories from your class.

      Bob Youngblood was a tremendous teacher and person. I know he will be greatly missed.

      You both taught me how to write, and I am forever grateful. More than just about any assignment, I loved writing in my journal for your class. I still have it. Geez, I’m realizing it was created 20 years ago. . . Amazing.

      It wasn’t lost on me that I was able to pay tribute to Mr. Youngblood on the Huffington Post. I recently received an invitation to write for them. You both helped me find my voice. Thank you!

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      1. And my axe!

        I was thinking as I read this that, while I never had the pleasure of being Mr. Youngblood’s pupil, the same could surely be said of Mrs. V. I guess I don’t need to say that after all.

        It’s only now, some 15 years (eek!) after graduating that I realize how truly excellent so many of the teachers at Floyd Central were. I’m frequently amazed at the little memories and lessons that have stuck with me through the years.

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  2. Bob Youngblood was one of the most gracious, kind people I have ever met. He was so beautifully -humbly kind and and probably unaware of how deeply he touched our lives. He leaves a hole in our worlds now filled with precious memories . The gym at Floyd Central could not possibly hold all those who love him and were loved by him. Written with tears in my eyes. Sue Huff aka Frau huff

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