Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Back to School

My memory has a special room just for teachers; and tonight they came out and paid me a visit.

I wonder if they ever imagined such immortality? It is a very long time ago--43 years since high school--and yet they are frozen in time in my mind, as real as they were then. I can see them and feel them vividly, both in appearance and personality. Maybe it's that the mind, eyes and heart of a child are like sponges that absorb impressions and hold onto them more easily than they do in later years.

Each teacher in my memory has a sense of "caricature" about them, but perhaps that is because they were a little larger than life to us and their personalities extremely distinct.

Teachers all seemed much older than we were, even those who I now realize must have been quite young. But one who didn't seem old at all was a white haired supply teacher who filled the gap when I was in my last year of elementary school. I can see now that inside this teacher, who must have been close to retirement age, lived a child with whom we instinctively connected. We didn't see the outer shell, we just saw her soul! She read to us from a book called, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, a wonderful book that I had never heard of before she introduced me to C.S. Lewis. She told us how she used to slide down a long, polished wooden bannister with a curved end when she was a child. Imagine! A grown up who loved to slide down bannisters. We loved her and I feel as if I will see her one day in heaven.

The prize for worst tempered, goes, I think, to one of my art teachers. He had long, wild hair the colour of carrots and serious, broody-moody icy-blue eyes. He threw blackboard erasers, scattering chalk dust at us when he lost his patience, which was frequently. I still loved art, and loved it even more when a new teacher arrived who looked as though he had stepped right out of a French Impressionist painting. He was short, with pale skin and dark hair and a mustache. He taught us about Toulouse Lautrec, Manet, Monet and Degas and encouraged me to become an art teacher. I was so shy that I could not imagine standing in front of a class and teaching. "You think that now because you are 15," he said, "But you will not always feel that way." I did not believe him., but I joined the art club and stayed after school and thought that I would become a painter one day.

My needle work teacher made a great impression on me and I learned much from her. She was gray haired and frowned intensely and seemed to always have an over watery mouth, for she sprayed as she spoke with a sputtery manner. I was not a natural needlewoman but I did try hard. I still can hear her voice saying "Gusset;" and feel the spray. At times I despaired of ever learning to sew. I learned to rip out seams that were not exactly right and to never settle for less than perfect. My sewing skills were inherited from my mother, who helped me with my homework one night with disastrous results. In class we had done two rows of gathering stitches on the sewing machines, around the shoulder edges of sleeves which were to be inserted into the armholes of a blouse. At home that night, I struggled ineptly to fit the sleeves into the armholes, and cried tears of frustration until Mum came to my assistance. She removed all hope of doing it by taking the messy loose threads of the gathering stitches and pulling them out. I still remember my gasp of horror as I helplessly watched the threads disappearing from the fabric, too swiftly to protest. It was worth the catastrophe for the many opportunities it gave us to laugh about it since.

This reminds me that children are thinking, observing, absorbing and remembering much more than we might think. It makes me want to be more intentional in the way I relate to them, to think about how I want to be remembered, maybe not as a teacher, but as a Sunday School teacher, grandparent, aunt or just a friend.

Mark 10:16 (Amplified Bible)
16And He took them [the children up one by one] in His arms and fervently invoked a] blessing, placing His hands upon them.

5 comments:

Marilyn said...

Ah, you've sent me on a trip down Memory Lane!

I enjoyed this, and especially the part where the art teacher with anger issues was followed by the art teacher who was a Barnabas. I have been sent such 'replacement' images, so that the poor one is not the only one, and have appreciated that blessing in my life. Otherwise, all my associations with the subject matter would be negative.

You are thinking much these days of little ones and what's poured into them. The thoughts of a nurturer. A good voice to have in our ears.

Dave Hingsburger said...

I gree with Marilyn, a trip down memory lane. I very much think about how I am seen and how I will be remembered. Ruby is nearly at the age where she will begin to remember those about her, we hope we've built the groundwork for good memories. We want her to know that she was cherished and valued. That we were intentional in communicating with her affection and respect. This was a perfect blog to read just before spending the next 4 days with her. Thanks

Brave Raven said...

Aaah, teachers. I too have some unforgettable ones: Mrs. Foy and Mrs. Elliot who taught me to speak English; Mr. Blake who called me up after a poetry assignment and said, "You should do this for a living;" Mr. Finn, who told me no matter what I did, I'd be a success. Hmmmm. I hope I never run into these people. They would wonder what happened and probably blame themselves. HA HA. Then, there was a Grade Five. Horrific Grade Five. Her breasts were so pointy that we were convinced they were made of plastic. I'll never forget one boy Ed giving her a "compliment:" "Miss, I like your......shirt." Our entire class erupted in "inside joke" laughter. Pleased by his comedic success at the expense of this miserable lady (who should have chosen another profession that did not involve working with children,) he tried again the next day:
"Miss, I like your....hair." Devastating silence followed by unfortunate consequences....for Ed!

Susan said...

I talked to my uncle last week who is a teacher. I said, "I hope you guys know what a lasting negative effect your actions can have on the lives of the kids you teach when you handle things badly..."

He answered that yes, he does understand and said, "It scares the hell out of me". It should.

I had some horrendous teachers who just didn't "get" me. I also had a couple who were outstanding. Mrs. Street (Grade 4) made me feel like I could do ANYTHING - and for her I tried to! I did so well that year that they advanced me a Grade in the middle of February. When she took me down to the nurse's office to tell me that she would no longer be my teacher that year, I bawled! I went into Mrs. Abey's class, who made me feel just the opposite. That I couldn't do ANYTHING. And I didn't. In spite of being reasonably intelligent, and having just been accelerated a year, I then failed two grades in a row. I think part of that was just that they didn't know what to do with me for the most part and decided I was a "bad" kid. So I was.

Then there was Mr. Reimer, a principal in public school, who I saw again in my forties. He remembered me vividly and said, while he rubbed his chin, and with a great twinkle in his eye, "Ah, I remember you! YOU were a CHALLENGE!" He said it like being a challenge was a gift or something. He used to help me control my behaviour by extending GRACE - he would give me jobs to do like ringing the bell for recess, or taking notes around for all the teachers to sign once they'd read it. It was entirely undeserved, but it made me feel important and responsible, and I did my best to live up to his expectations. I never wanted to let him down. I loved that man and can't wait to see him in heaven. He made SUCH a huge difference in my childhood. Just simple acceptance and instead of trying to change me, he chose to channel my energy into worthwhile activities and thereby gave me a goal to shoot for that was entirely unspoken, but very tangible.

I wish all teachers knew what he did and realized that EVERY kid in their heart wants to do well. I know I did. I think the worst thing you can do to a kid is to take their behaviour personally... We, as adults, have the power to consolidate in a child either the positive or the negative. You are so right that we need to be incredibly careful and accepting and understanding of children... We need to respond to the BEHAVIOUR, without judgement, manipulation or control. I wish I'd done a better job as a parent. Thank God we get a second chance through our grandchildren and all the other kids in our lives.

Brenda said...

I loved Mr. Reimer, too! The world needs more people like him. He knew instinctively just what we needed and did it.