In my previous post https://believeanyway.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/do-you-repeatedly-make-the-same-discoveries-about-yourself/I wrote about my very cool pen and the consequence of losing it to my teacher. Out of the larger context, his actions sound unselfish and unfair. But this teacher was one for the ages. He opened the doors to our hearts and minds in extraordinary ways.
We called him Sir–because he was so very, very much like Sidney Poitier in To Sir With Love. He of course called us Miss or Mr. followed by our last names. He brought out the best in us–in behavior, responsibility, attitude, and effort. He (as the song says) brought us from crayons to perfume. I had him for 7th and 8th grade—(history and English in 7th and 8th, and also math in 8th)–and that was from fall of 1966 through spring of 1968.
We were a group of kids that was pretty unusual. The entire class had developed a reputation of thinking they were above the rules. No major problems–just unpredictable rascally prank-ish behavior, and low level non-compliance with rules.
My mom has told me many times that the annual Iowa and other standardized tests had shown time and again (year after year) that there was not an average student in the class—we all (all 76 of us–38 in each of 2 classes) tested at the 85th percentile and above. Perhaps that is why we tended to think we were above the rules. I went to this school for 1st grade, then we moved to another town until I was in 6th grade, and then we moved back. So when teachers said our class had a reputation, I was just certain it had nothing to do with me!
Anyway, Sir (and our other main teacher), knew that we needed to change before we hit high school. If we didn’t, our gifted-ness could be our destruction. These 2 teachers were never vicious or cruel. They were matter-of-fact and expected us to do our best.
We were eager to do right by Sir–he impacted my entire life. Yeah, he took my pen and no I did not get it back. Oddly enough, I did not for a minute feel resentful, angry or sad about it. You see, I thought at the time “oops—giggle—busted”. He never acted angry towards me, just gave me the consequence. He had let me write for quite awhile before taking it in order to give me a chance to stop myself–and to realize I could be distracting the whole class with my noisy pen. I did not even try to stop myself. Oh, no, I was having way too much fun! 🙂
Our work time had turned into playtime for me. It was no different than if I had finished my essay quickly with a normal pen and then whipped my ball and jacks out of my skirt pocket and starting playing jacks on my desk while the rest of the class attempted to concentrate and work quietly.
He never said a word at the time, smiled and took it. I believe he smiled to let me know that he cared about me enough to teach me a lesson. The lesson was far more important than the pen (to him and to me). It was never mentioned again, it was done quietly, there was no public reprimand, public humiliation, or re-visiting the issue every time a writing assignment was given. Those humiliation tactics are very common at some of the schools MY tutoring students attend.
I was in 7th or 8th grade and I knew it wasn’t “play with your pen time”. It is just like I know darn well not to drive 60 mph in a school zone, and I know the policeman will give me a ticket. There is a consequence. He respected me enough to give me the consequence. To deny me the consequence lets me continue a misconception that the rule doesn’t apply and that my creative fun was more important than the concentration of the group. If I had left the pen at home for creativity it would not have happened. Not only that, but I knew my parents would rejoice that there was a consequence.
Sir loved us and held the line. He insisted that we work hard, think deeply, not parrot our responses, stay honest, ethical, and compassionate and care deeply about ideas and principles and values. He was the teacher of a life time. He taught me the whole world, and helped my heart, mind, and soul grow. He didn’t do this despite the confiscation of my pen. He did this by confiscating my pen. He did this by never accepting a mediocre effort from me, and never believing half an effort was good enough. He did this by making me (and all of us) think and research beyond the words in the textbooks. We were to research beyond our textbooks and come prepared with well thought out contributions to class discussion. He encouraged us to be quick on our feet and eager to compete. He made me fall in love with the bigger context of life. He made me eager to fit into the world in a big way and to do everything for He who loves us all.
Someday in heaven, I pray that Sir will meet with all of his former students he helped along their paths in life. As for me, each day, I carry Sir’s flag when I reach out to my students and attempt to inspire them in some small way the way Sir inspired me. We moved away from that town the summer I finished 8th grade. A year later I was back in town and stopped to see him. I had a political button on my purse and he immediately engaged me in a spirited debate to be sure that I was thinking things through. I thanked him profusely for all he had done for all of us. We moved out of state a few months later. I wish I had taken time to stay in touch with him.
He remains in my heart and I thank him. He kindly held me to high standards ~ and I am so grateful.
I apologize for making him seem anything less than totally and completely amazing in my previous post. In my previous post, I was trying to relate my childlike joy in playing with my pen. Sir did at times have some playtime for us: racing to the board to compete against each other in completing a math problem; conjugating verbs; or providing Civil War battle dates. He gave us the confidence that comes from being reliable, trustworthy, diligent, and dedicated. Yes he took my pen. He also launched my heart.
I should have written all of this in order to put my “pen” post in its true context. I will link the two posts together so that all can see them :-). Thanks for reading about my Sir.