First, let me thank you for reading those postings and for commenting. You complimented me profusely on my teaching style and I appreciate your kind words.
Second, today I’d like to explore three things: (1) the students in those New Hampshire classes, (2) teachers today, and (3) teachers who help us believe in ourselves.
(1) None of what I did or tried to do in that classroom would have worked if those students hadn’t been ready for change. They were eager to learn and open to the possibility of themselves. The ground of their being was fertile. Once they accepted my belief in them, they trusted me and were willing to explore the wonder of their own answers, questions, and experiences. They became excited about learning.
When a teacher reached out to them, the students were ready. They gifted me with their trust. That is the marvel, to me, of those three stories.
(2) Each day of the school year many fine teachers reach out to students. Those students respond or not—depending on whether their life experiences have let them retain a seed of trust in what adults say to them.
Some of those teachers—like Deb and Sandi—read this blog. They are, I think, thoughtful, compassionate, patient teachers who respect and encourage their students. Who believe that each new year brings them the opportunity to touch the lives of others and be touched.
(A sidebar here: All of us teach. Most of you reading this blog are mothers or grandmothers or aunts or uncles. You teach each and every day. In your blogs I often read about your respect and patience and compassion and unstinting support and care for the children in your lives. These stories always inspire me. Reading them, I stand on holy ground.)
My mother always said to me, “Dolores, if you look for good in the world, you’ll find it. And if you look for bad, you’re surely find that too.” Most teachers do this. They look for the good in their students.
When I talk to young people today—the young man who mows my law, grandchildren of friends and family—I learn about the teachers who inspire them and believe in them. So many fine teachers.
And yet we all know that some teachers are weary and impatient. They seem to look for the bad in others. They themselves bear the scars of not being valued and loved. And so they cannot bring to the children what they do not have. They may see teaching as just another job, not as a calling.
But my firm belief is that if any child can have just one teacher who believes in her or him--just one--that child has a cherished memory to hold onto for the rest of life.
(Another sidebar: And that teacher can be mother, father, uncle, aunt, neighbor.)
We never know what we might say or do or be that touches a child’s life. We can only live, as I said last Thursday, with the attitude that we are on hollowed ground when we engage with others.
(3) When this happens we can do wonderfully fine things. I’ve had such teachers. The reason I taught well is because I’d been taught well.
Sister Corita in 3rd and 4th grades helped me come to grips with asthma. In grades five through seven, Sister Mary McCauley made learning fun. Sister Marian taught us in 8th grade. She read to us each day. I can still remember the book Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan, which she read to us the winter of 1949-50.
In high school, Sister Mary Edith made Latin II exciting by using the chalkboard to map out the thrust and parry of Caesar’s wars. Sister Mary Rosaria taught us how to engage in conversations on any topic so we could elicit the thoughts of others.
In college, Sister Scholastica taught me how to write. Sister Juanita shared her love of history and made kings and commoners come alive. Sister Jeanette honored my dreams. Sister John Marie seemed to have a bubble of happiness within in as she taught. Learning became delight in her classroom.
All these women valued me as a student and as a human being. It is because I was open to their promptings that I became the teacher of last week’s postings. And of course, I had my mother and father who always said to me, “Dolores, you can do anything you set your mind to.” They were my first teachers.
So today I want to thank you for all your compliments about my teaching. And I want to ask you two questions:
Which teachers influenced your life for the better?
Which teachers have reverently touched the lives of your children and grandchildren and neighbors’ children?