Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Lessons Teacher Teach us

Mrs. Who of House of Zathras posted a beautiful story about what she did for a student. Sometimes the lessons a teacher teaches isn't out of the text book but influences our life profoundly as Mrs. Who did for Brandy. I'm sure that young lady still remembers what her teacher did for her.

The teachers that stand out in my mind don't stand out for academic reasons but for personal ones. Their actions taught me a life lesson. Lessons that still influence me to this day.

Mrs. Sunday was my sixth grade Social Studies teacher (I think that is what she taught). She was not well liked by most of the students but I loved Mrs. Sunday. She was pivotal in giving me a little confidence in myself at a time when I desperately needed to know someone cared. At age eleven, I was already constantly thinking about suicide. I lived in a very volatile household and was being sexually abused. No one knew about what I was going through or how I felt. All that the other kids saw was someone they could tease and easily make cry. I felt very alone. Anyhow, I was in Mrs. Marshall's drama class that 6 weeks. I hated that lady. I was very shy and did not like to be in the center of attention. She would grab me by the arm, pull me out into the middle of the class and try and make me act something out. All of the other kids would laugh and call me names (I know I sound like a reindeer) like crybaby and such. I hated the other kids. Well, one day in drama class we had to dress up like somebody/something and Mrs. Sunday came in to judge the contest. I had not prepared for this contest, as again, I hated anything that put me in the spot light. At the last minute, one of my friends took a little bit of makeup, drew some whiskers on my checks, blackened my nose and made me look like a cat. I don't think I even had cat ears. Not the most elaborate costume in the room. But, as Mrs. Sunday passed by inspecting me I cocked my head to the side and quietly mewed so she would have some idea of what I was supposed to be. I WON! Mrs. Sunday picked me. I won a milk cartoon of Whoppers. I did not share them with the students in that class and they were mad. Later, that day I shared them with Mrs. Sunday and a few of my friends in her class. I know that I did not have the best costume that day. There were others far more deserving but maybe she saw something in me that was crying for help and knew I needed a little bit of confidence and kindness. I was saddened years later when I heard she committed suicide. Whether or not that was a valid rumor I don't know. I certainly hope not because I still remember her fondly. She taught me a valuable lesson that day and gave me a little bit of hope. Merry Christmas Mrs. Sunday, wherever you may be.

Another teacher that stands out in my mind is Mr. Bennett, one of my high school science teachers. He was a well-like and respected teacher. He taught Biology and Anatomy and Physiology and a host of other science related classes. He joked around with the students and was always helping them with projects that included animals and such. He seemed to be someone who related well with students and would help them out. I found out differently on my last day of school. A few days earlier, a little gray kitten mysteriously appeared in the middle of our living room. We have no idea how she got in the house or where she came from. I checked with the neighbors and no one claimed her. I named her Grey Ghost. She was solid gray, fuzzy and sweet. The morning of my last final exam I was rushing out of the house and she got slammed in the door. She started flailing around and crying. I was devastated. I didn't know what to do. No one else was at home. My mom was at work, my sisters had already moved out and I was running late for Senior exams. So, I scooped her up into a shoe box and rushed to school. I was in tears. I immediately thought of Mr. Bennett. He knew all about animals and I figured he could help me. The moment he saw me carrying the cat towards him he turned his back to me and said, "I don't see an animal here. You're not supposed to bring pets in." He wouldn't even look at me. He wouldn't even listen to me. I was stunned and hurt. So, I ran in tears with this hurt kitten in a shoebox to my first exam not knowing what to do. My teacher in that class, told me to take her to the Vet and not worry about a thing. I missed three final exams that day. I just knew I wouldn't graduate. I was shocked when I had an A or B on all my exams. I found out later that that teacher explained to my other teachers what had happened and they excused me from my exams and made sure I graduated. It turned out the kitten's spinal cord was broken and she had to be put to sleep. As I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, Mr. Bennett was waiting to shake my hand. I just glared at him and walked right past. He had lost my respect. He taught me that not everybody would help you when you were down and needed help. Fortunately, I had three other teachers that day that taught me just the opposite. Maybe, on an academic level what they did was not right. But, it made me try harder later on because I knew that I didn't want to let them down.