This is a reworked post from the archives--to help me over a busy time, but also because it is timely!
My memory has a special room where teachers of long ago live. I wonder if they ever imagined such immortality. They are frozen in time in my mind. I can see, hear and feel them vividly; their 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!
Teachers all seemed old to my child's mind; even those whom I now realize must have been relatively 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, lived the heart of a child, and we instinctively connected with her. We didn't see the outer shell of a teacher near retirement age, we just saw her soul, She read to us from a book I had never heard of before, even though I was a voracious reader. It was called, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Yes, she introduced us to C.S. Lewis.
She also told us how she used to slide down a long, polished wooden bannister with a curved end when she was a child. A grown up who loved to slide down bannisters! We loved her.
The prize for worst tempered, goes 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, when he lost his patience. I still loved art, but loved it more when a new teacher replaced him. The new teacher looked as though he had stepped right out of a French Impressionist painting. He was short, with pale skin, dark hair and eyes, and a mustache. He taught us about Rembrant, Turner, Pieter Bruegel, 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 intense and frowned a lot. She seemed to always have an over watery mouth, for as she leaned in close to examine our seams, she sprayed as she instructed us. I was not a natural seamstress, but I did try hard. At times I despaired of ever learning to sew, but 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 Mum, who helped me with my homework one night with disastrous results. In class we had done two rows of gathering stitches on the school sewing machines around the shoulder edges of sleeves. For homework they were to be set into the armholes of the blouse I was making. 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 started by pulling out some messy loose threads; the gathering stitches vanished before my eyes. I gasped in horror as I helplessly watched. It happened too quickly for me to catch my breath and protest. It is a memory we laugh about now but at the time it felt as though the world had surely come to an end.
Teacher's words have such power to affirm or speak into children's belief in themselves and their gifts. There were teachers who encouraged me in art, writing and working with people. Even today I remember things that they said or wrote in school reports. I cherished their words and they helped the possibilities I saw for myself.
Teachers, what a gift and responsibility you have when you stand before a class of children. For good or ill, they will still remember some of the words that you speak, forever.