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Archive for May 13th, 2006

The Love of Teachers

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

Today I got an email from the woman who was my 4th grade teacher. It’s ironic because today I was remembering something that happened in 4th grade… but I digress.

My parents decided that for 4th grade I really needed to go to a different school (same district) where I could interact with different students. (They were right, I typically got along with adults better than other children… my school was so small that I was in each grade with exactly the same students… and those kids did not typically treat me well.)

kidz I was initially upset about the prospect of change, as children can be. My parents were determined. And it turned out that this teacher loved me. I am pretty sure I did not get along with the kids in my new school much better than at my old school. However, I had a year of nurturing by this wonderful teacher and a year of not being in a rut in the old school.

I went on (5th grade back at the first school) and she kept teaching for years. She married later than most, had two children, and is very happy in her new life. Sometimes as an adult I’ve run into her at Wharton Center (a fine large performing space at MSU). A year or two ago Brian and I went for a walk in a cute neighborhood where we do not live, and we ran into her and her husband walking their dog. It was SO good to see her again.

You know, she loved me. (She still does.) She didn’t have to say anything. So did Mr. Johnson, my 5th grade teacher who was the one who first taught me to knit. So did Mrs. Johnson in 6th grade (who now sells real estate and loves it), and Mrs. Kauffman in middle-school gym (where I was emphatically not a star but she was kind to me). Mr. Harris, our band director in 9th grade, was so good to us we called him “Dad” even though he was in his mid-20s. Mr. Rae, the art teacher in high school, encouraged my quirky self when I took his 3-D art classes. And I am sure there were more.

I have run into all of these I mention above since I left school. Unfortunately, Mr. Harris died at age 33 of a heart attack but the others are still around. Mom runs into them from time to time (because she also taught in the same school district).

There is so much complaining in the world, my friends. There is much bad press about bad teachers, and I had a share of those as well. But when you are a child who emphatically does not fit in, who is distractable and creative, talkative and often too loud… well, you sure do notice a loving teacher. None of them ever said the word “love” but just the attention they paid to me when others did not, was very important.

My teacher wrote:

You have really found yourself and are doing wonderfully to express your artistic ability. I am very proud of you and all you have done. You have a wonderful gift and I applaud you for sharing it with others.

My friends, after all these years, she still needs not say the “L” word for me to feel a hug. Through black and white text. Don’t tell me email is impersonal!

And don’t tell me that teachers don’t care. There are still many who do. And those teachers do really change lives. I was treated well by these individuals in the midst of what was for me a socially unhappy environment. They were doing their jobs but they did it with heart. Even the influence of one person can make a difference. Especially the influence of a teacher.

Thanks for the note, Mrs. B!

Photo: Neighborhood kids around 1969, probably I was in 5th grade. I’m second from right, behind my brother who’s wearing red… in the very back row, long dark blonde hair.