For today’s art challenge prompt of fruit, I thought back to childhood again and the simple act of bringing an apple to my teacher. This, of course, is not even allowed in some schools now, but is a tradition that had been around for hundreds of years. Initially for poorer students in Denmark and Sweden, it consisted of an entire basket of apples as payment to the teacher for a child’s education. Here in the United States, back in frontier times, teachers were housed by families and apples were simply given as a way to feed them. Later, after the Great Depression, the more negative term of “apple polisher” came into vogue, a term referring to getting in the good graces of teachers, but has since become a term used to mean anyone who bribes someone important for personal gain. Yet, that’s not how I remember it at all. Instead, it was simply a way to show Mrs. Smith your affection without revealing your secret crush. And teachers, after all, are among the most important people on the planet, so they deserve all the kindness one can give.
It was quite common for boys to have crushes on their teachers, who were all female in my school at the time. Nothing tawdry or awful, just a little thrill and joy in seeing them each day. At least the nice and helpful teachers. As I recall, Mrs. Smith would have never actually made my crush list as she was always a bit mean in my mind at the time. But most all of my other teachers fell into the “you’re so awesome and when I grow up I want to marry someone just like you” camp. In truth, these amazing women in my life, were the first role models I ever had. They didn’t just teach me about art and mathematics, they taught me how to be a better person. Well, little person, who might one day grow into a wonderful and kind adult. It’s no small feat to mold the course of a little human. We’re crazy creatures full of all sorts of potential and a potential for everything to just go incredibly wrong.
But, yes, there are tons of jobs that pay far better in life, unfortunately. So I feel extra fortunate to know people who really love to teach. It’s so incredibly important to have people like that in the world to make sure the rest of us turn out okay in the end. And, if I could, although I know not one of them is reading this, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of my teachers from my childhood. You were amazing and though I don’t remember every project we did together or exactly what homework you assigned, I’ll never forget what you taught me. Sometimes in life we learn facts and figures, but in those other, more special times, we learn about life and how to live it to our best potential. And, even today, whenever I feel discouraged, I ask myself what Mrs. Hughes might say to me. Even stern Mrs. Smith would say, “get over it already and stop fidgeting!” Sage advice now that I look back on it. Thanks, Mrs. Smith, I owe you an apple.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Nickel Azo Yellow, Quinacridone Red, Leaf Green, Benzimida Orange, Terra Cotta and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!