During a science project studying pictures of cell structures, I decided to draw my own pictures. But mine were devoted to the human female form rather than bacteria. Upon seeing my pictures, the class troublemaker grabbed them and showed them to the pretty young lady sitting next to me, much to my squeaky-voiced protests. I was called to show Mrs. Grossman the object of this uproar.
“What would your father think if I showed him this?” she asked sternly.
After giving it serious thought, I answered honestly, “He’d probably laugh.”
Mrs. Grossman didn’t like this answer. And I never did become a Playboy photographer.
“I wonder what ever happened to him,” she said of that troublemaker.
And as we looked through more pictures, she made the same comment about so many kids. When she asked me what my favorite part of her class was, I didn’t hesitate: When she read us “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The whole class was mesmerized, fearing the end of each chapter and yearning for the next.
Soon something occurred to me. I’d come to interview her. But it was me we ended up talking about; so curious was she about her students and their lives after they left her charge. It must be hard to get so close to kids at such a critical time of their development, then see them off to the purgatory of junior high and life beyond. She hoped against hope that each would survive and succeed, whether they became lawyers, bookkeepers, taxi drivers or doctors.
“One of my fears though,” she told me, “is that I’ll end up at the hospital needing some procedure and a former student will be the doctor. Can we get somebody else in here?!”
She’s seen so much change, in kids, school politics and the educational system. She has air conditioning and better ventilation in her class now, stifling the scent of sweaty boys and asphalt on a hot day. But the heart of a good teacher remains constant. She’s in it for the kids. Always has been.
When I asked her what she wanted her students to take away from her class, she said what she’s supposed to say first.
“The basics, reading and writing at grade level.”
Then she paused and added what is clearly in her heart.
“A sense of kindness.”
Teachers are rarely wrong in their assessments of their students.
Pat needs to increase his efforts and work harder in several areas.
And she’s still teaching me how to do that.
Get in touch PATRICK CANEDAY misses recess and kickball and cafeteria hamburgers. He may be reached at www.patrickcaneday.com and patrickcaneday@ gmail.com.