Monday, September 21, 2009

That Corner Was Mine


This is one of my posts that begins in a comment to a friend. This time, that friend was Pixie Dust. Here's what I wrote to her:
How did you do it? Make me laugh and cry in just five paragraphs? I laughed so hard when you wrote the corner was mine. In first grade, I had a corner of my own, too. I got put there for talking. Talking, talking, talking. My meanie-pants teacher made me face the corner, which only made me more obstinate than ever. I don't think he ever managed to shut me up. I turned around and talked out of plain old cussedness. I've disliked that old coot for years, but as I write this I realize that I probably owe him for my excellent verbal skills. I began honing them in his class after all.
I've been thinking about the teachers I had. Isn't it funny how we often remember the terrible ones? Perhaps we had one or two special teachers, but the rest just fade away in our memories. I wonder why that is? Or maybe it's just me. Whom do you remember better, the great teachers or the ones who hurt you somehow?

I wrote a post some time ago about speaking gently to each other, about being kind. A woman wrote back to me and told me a heartbreaking story. When she was eleven her teacher made fun of her in front of the class. More than fifty years later, she still hurt, still refused to speak in front of groups. That just makes me weep to think of. We all hold such power over each other's hearts. Sure, we all know that we shouldn't give people that power, but that's a subject for another post. I guess I just wanted to write about how important it is for us all to speak gently to each other. To be tender with each other's efforts and dreams. And choices. Most especially to be gentle and patient and tender with our little ones.

I have a tough class this year, and it has been a loooooong five weeks. Maybe I'm just writing this to remind myself of what I know deep inside. Lord knows I need reminding to be patient and speak gently as the hot afternoons grow long. When I think about my class I just keep thinking a few things over and over. And so.

And so I write them here as a reminder to me. Hoping that maybe they will be words someone else needs to read today. I keep thinking:

* I may be the only person who touches them with tenderness today.
* My smile may be the first one they've had this morning.
* The environment I create may be the only safe place they have.
* If I give an impatient answer, it could crush a spirit or extinguish a spark.
* If I listen with real attention, it might fan a tiny spark into a lifelong flame.
* My arms might be the only pair that offers a hug today.
* My sincere apology might be the first adult one they ever hear.
* When I say, "I love you", each child hears it deep in their heart.
* I will never know what small act of mine will create a life-long memory. Let my words, my attitudes, my actions be good ones. Let them be full of encouragement and affection. Let them be full of love. Every day, all day long.
Wouldn't the world be even more wonderful if we all lived as though everything we did had a life-long impact on someone? It could. You know, it really could. Just ask my friend.



The illustration above is by
Gabi Swiatkowska from the book Waiting for Gregory by Kimberly Willis Holt. I think. It could be from Summertime Waltz, which is just as lovely.

48 comments:

Debbie said...

That was excellent.

I have to say that one of my memories, and one that I am NOT proud of was something that I said to a not very close friend in Jr. Hi. that hurt her terribly. I remember it to this day and the learning lesson that it was for me to watch what I say and how I say it.

Tracy said...

Your tender and wise reminders to self will surely see your classroom days taking on a sweeter light, Relyn. :o) You sound like that kind of teacher I wish I'd had. I recall one very painful incident in 1st grade, when I did something incorrect and the teacher pulled my long hair in front of the whole class, kept pulling, and making fun on my mistake. And because I was starting to cry, quietly, I was sent to spend an hour in the winter-cold cloak room alone until I stopped being a "bad baby". I was 6 years old. I remember that like it was yesterday. I was afraid of that teacher all my days in 1st grade. What a way to start one's school career! Some teachers shouldn't teach. Others, like yourself, have a great gift to share. I applaud you for it. :o) ((HUGS))

Someone's Mom said...

You must be a wonderful teacher. In recent months I have connected with many classmates on Facebook. Many of them I hadn't seen since graduation (about 100 years ago). Some of them I didn't really talk to in high school, as we moved in different circles. I have had some wonderful conversations (chats, emails and phone calls). I've learned how things we said or did in high school are still affecting some of these people now. We are taking the time now to say "thank you" or "I'm sorry". It has been a wonderful gift. You just never know what might touch a person for a lifetime.

Sue

anna said...

What a gift your teaching is to those kids in your classroom! Your heart must surely shine into your actions, when you speak your own words of wisdom aloud to yourself like that!

I do remember my first grade teacher as being so scary... I got yelled at for sharing an answer with my seat-mate on the first day! Hey, I thought sharing was a good idea?! I thought I was being helpful! LOL!

Char said...

beautiful way to look at it. beautiful. I wish that all teachers did that.

Alicia @ boylerpf said...

Your list of reminders is one we should all carry with us to remember when we speak to others. We often times just open our mouths and think selfishly of our feelings and not the feelings of the person being spoken to. Thankfully, I never had a teacher that embarrassed me in front of a class. I remember the ones that made learning fun...even though they didn't think they were, they were inspiring.
I hope your school week is superb full of kind words and smiles!

smith kaich jones said...

What a brave woman you are, to hold such power. I'd honestly never thought about that power - I have good memories of my teachers. Always supportive, always encouraging, always gentle with me. I was enrolled in first grade early, a few months too young, suffering from selective mutism - although everyone just thought I was very shy. I don't remember the teacher's name - I could speak to her, but never to anyone else. She would bring me to her desk to read, to "do" my numbers, and determining that I was miserable, that I didn't need to be there - already "ahead" of the others - that perhaps I could wait another year before trying first grade. It made all the diference in the world - still excruciatingly shy, but able to talk in front of others, school was no longer the scary place it had been. I thank her today for recognizing that, for recommending I return home.

Debi

beth said...

I want to be one of your students...
because they are the luckiest kids in the world to have you in their lives....

and fortunately I do remember the good teachers I had....mr. kitchen, mrs. faherty...and the list goes on and on.....

you words will sit with me as a wife and a mother today....because what you wrote, fits all of in some way of the roles we play each day...

xoxoxoox

margie said...

i once stood outside a grade two classroom and listened while a teacher berated her students, yelling at them how very very disappointed in them. her tone and her words were simply awful. to speak that way to seven year olds. how sad. i wondered what they could possible have done to merit such a reprimand.

The Feathered Nest said...

You, sweet friend, are the kind of teacher that a mother dreams of for her babies.....beautiful post sweet girl, xxoo, Dawn

Gayle said...

Relyn, you brought tears to my eyes. Your reminders are so true, so beautiful.

PixieDust said...

Makes me wonder what a difference a teacher like you would have made in my life... but that is past and done, and the future is the little ones you have before you every morning... and they are so very lucky!

:-D

(((hugs))),
love,
me

Derrick said...

Hi Relyn,

It is never easy always to find a tender word or gesture, some days aren't like that. But you are right about how important it could be. Thinking just now, there are only two teachers names that come into my mind and they were both primary school. So, KNOW how important you are!

Gigi said...

You are a deeply gifted teacher, my friend. I teach older students, but in many ways, it is no different. I still need to remind myself of these wonderful points on your list. Okay, so I can't say, "I love you," to a college student and I'm not allowed to give them hugs (until graduation day, and then, watch out!), but I can show them compassion, care, and respect. I can't count the number of times a student has appeared at my office with a non-academic problem. Sometimes these problems are much larger than what I am prepared or qualified to help them with, but I listen and try to help them find the people and resources that they need. The fact that they come to me tells me that so many young people don't have the support or guidance they need at home. I am daily amazed by the strength some of these students possess. Many of them work full time and go to school full time. Many are the first ones in their families to go to college. How privileged I am to be able to teach them.

Thanks for this reminder today, Relyn. I would have LOVED to have had you for a teacher!!!

xoxo Gigi

Meri said...

That should be the Teacher's Creed. Children who are deeply cared for even just for the hours they're in school are so blessed. And yes, I do think we tend to remember the horrible hurts inflicted by teachers but I hope everyone of us has memories of amazing teachers that inspired us and lifted our spirits. I have no doubt you're one of the amazing ones, my friend.

Jeanne said...

I found this posting so profound.
Thanks for all that you share
Love Jeanne

Elle Bee said...

Lovley post Relyn. What a wonderful reminder to always speak kindly. Our tongue has such power to hurt and to heal!
Elle

Marilyn Miller said...

Special prayers are sent to you today for having a good year with your students. Your words are indeed good to remember.

I do mostly remember the good teachers after all these years. Thanks for helping me to remember.

Connie said...

It is great that you and so many others are focusing on kindness particularly with students that may not get it anywhere else.

I had some great teachers that were able to undo some of the harm of their predecessors!

Wanda said...

I know that when I was a teacher I touched some lives in very positive, meaningful ways...and I know I did some hurtful things. I was young and ignorant. I am not offering that as an excuse--simply context. To those I hurt, I want to say, "I am so sorry. I learned my lesson." And I pray they are not still hurting from my thoughtlessness.

spread your wings said...

you, i feel sure, are the best teacher a mother could want for her child and the kind of teacher children will remember in years to come as the one who made a positive impact on their lives. But you're right teachers can have a negative impact as well. in fact right now T is in a class that she wants very much to like - graphic design - her first introduction to it (besides my input) and she in fact hates it, the teacher practically brings her to tears each day. This one teacher may steer her off the path that she was going and it really saddens me.
i hope your class becomes easier and more enjoyable as the year progresses.

TheChicGeek said...

Hi Relyn :D
What a wonderful post! You are so right, we can make a lifelong impact with even small words or acts. Your class is lucky to have a teacher that understands this.
My fifth grade teacher called me Barfy-Baby because I threw up in his class! The entire year I was known as Barfy-Baby....LOL
He used to read us Shakespeare and he taught us wonderful things about the great artists of the world. He is probably one of the greatest teachers I ever had. He instilled in me a love the arts and literature! The only reason I threw up in class is because he was reading Shakespeare and I didn't want to interrupt him because he was so strict...I tossed my cookies...LOL
Oh, well, I forgive him for his mishap because he really gave me so much more than just Barfy-Baby!

PS: I thought I was already a follower! I have now added myself officially. You are the Best Relyn! I do so enjoy visiting you!

Have a Wonderful Week!

Mrs. E said...

This was beautiful. I need to save it to return to again and again. As teachers we have such power to do good or bad in the lives of our students--even the older ones need a safe place to land at school. Thank you for reminding me!

Kelli said...

Your words are so true...
Do you work with little ones?
I teach 8th grade, and it is so important to respect and value their feelings.
Kids feel things SO intensely - even those things we feel are trivial.
I really loved this post... would you mind if I forwarded it to some of my teacher friends?

Yolanda said...

I had a similar experience with a teacher in the fifth grade so I know how that woman felt. I still doubt my self when in groups and still have self confidence issues. I know how hard your job is and like yours being a nurse I too need to be reminded of the list you mentioned and I am going to copy this and put it in my locker to remind myself to try and be this during the 12 hours I have with my patients. Thanks for the reminder.

Joan said...

As I peek out on the last day of Summer, my heart relays every beautiful word spoken by those who came before me.
Your heart, your spirit, are such an incredible blessing to every single soul who is fortunate enough to know you.
From the tenderness shared with your children, to the tenderness you show to my own inner child...
today I say thank you beautiful Relyn...
and may you embrace today the vision of your tender heart as droplets of love raining down on each and every one of us who share your incredibly beautiful world.

love to you today my dear friend, only love.
xoxo

Coralie Cederna Johnson said...

Thank you Relyn for stating what I so often think. We must be kind and gentle with others. Who knows what others are enduring...we all have something painful to deal with, past or present. As you wrote, we never know what small act will create a life-long memory. Perhaps a memory for change. Bless you for sharing these wisdoms.

Heart2Heart said...

Relyn,

I don't have any bad memories of horrible teachers, just ones that made a huge difference in my life for the better. Just those special people have made me want to do the same for others.

Love your list and I will print it out for a reminder of what I need to focus on each and every day.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Sarah said...

This is beautiful and wise Relyn. I always feel so sad to read of children being hurt by teachers. We are in such a priviledged position and should be very very careful. I always think of two things in particular on this subject. One is of a role play I watched years ago by two of my friends at teaching cottage. They had written a short monologue from a teacher to a child. The words were quite unimportant in a sense. They performed the monologue twice, once in a kind and caring manner and the second time in a hectoring bullying tone. THe difference was striking. THe other thing is a quote which goes something like this " Children may not remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel"
Your class are lucky to have you!

Sarah said...

Teaching cottage? No! Teaching college! Though the cottage sounds nice actually.

Christina said...

yes, yes, and yes. i still remember the teacher, who saw past my surface. my shut down, shut in surface.
thank God~ for teachers.
xo

Jeanie said...

This post is lovely and important for a teacher to read. But not only teachers. We should all follow these guidelines in every manner of our life -- talking with our own children, our friends, our colleagues, our "challenging" people. And yes,how wonderful it would be!

Kim Living Life said...

How I wish all our children could have wonderful teachers like you. I remember having one male twacher who called me 4 eyes when I got my first pair of glasses in year 2. I really hated him (strong isn't it) And i remember the teacher with the lovely soft floppy tuck shop arms that i used to tickle and sit and talk to. There is hopefully always some good with the bad. You are great.

studio wellspring said...

gawd you are stunning. i so wish alesia could have you for a teacher someday. maybe? maybe someday! :o) xxoo darling heart

Ms. K @ Write On Thyme said...

A lovely post, my dear! I can so relate to Tracy! I had a similar first grade experience. I had almost all good teachers throughout school but there was one bad one and when I say bad, I mean really bad so of course she stands out! Mrs. Thomb used to tell us 1st graders during story time that if we didn't sit up straight, our stomachs would pop and we'd bleed all over the room. She assured us she'd seen it happen before. I tried to be nice to the mentally retarded girl in class because everyone else made fun of her and Mrs. T. told me (in front of the class) that if I played with her, I must be retarded too and called me stupid. I've always hoped there was a special place for Mrs. Thomb in the afterlife! I wonder if she had children of her own and what her poor kids were like. How do these people get to mold the tender hearts and minds of children?!

I love your list of things to remind yourself. I have absolutely no doubt you are a remarkable teacher Relyn!

Gillian said...

Good teachers matter. So much. Because of their ability to see inside...to really care.
I loved that bullet list. It doesn't just apply to teachers and students, it applies to all of us.
xoxo

Lyrically speaking said...

your blog is on fiya, love it here, i feel right at home

Dandy said...

Oh my, isn't that the truth. I remember some scary and also some fantastic teachers.

What an incredible reminder. I'll be coming back to visit this post.

Anonymous said...

You're husband is also very good at making life long memories for the high school students he teaches. God bless your family :)

Jessica said...

I clearly remember my horrible teachers but there was one wonderful one, ms. mac, who touched me and memories of her are greater than all the bad ones. I bet you are a bunch like ms. mac kind and wonderful, sweet, honoring, loving, caring type. I know you are! Those kids are beyond lucky to spend their year learning with you.

Wildflower Studio (Michelle Dransart) said...

You are so right on all you say here, and I agree with being kind to others. You seem like such a thoughtful and kind person.
I had a teacher do that to me too, for daydreaming and doodling in class in 1st grade, and my weak subject was math and she made me do math problems in front of class as punishment. I have math anxiety to this day in front of people.

Ragamuffin Gal said...

Beautiful reminders Dear Friend ~ thank you for sharing your heart with us! Love you, kt

Lubna said...

Hi Relyn,
You are a great teacher, I just know it.
I remember most of my good teachers and have just one or two bad memories.
My favourite teacher was our physical exercise teacher, Mrs. Vincet. I was a very weak kid and could not cope up with most sports. In the sprint race, i always came last, but I kept going. Mrs. VIncent saw to it that I kept going, she would run next to me and say: you can do it, and cheer loudly when i crossed the finish line. In hockey, again because I was not a good runner, I was made the goal keeper - which i was good at. "Yes, you can!" was her motto and I loved her for it. Even now when I feel stuck, I remember this motto. Another nice teacher was Mrs. Branch, my second grade teacher. You remind me of her, she was very very creative.
I hated Father Robin (I think this was his name). He was a teacher at a boy's school next door, but occassionally used to take our moral education classes. Once he took the roll call and commented that Lubna was a boring name. Still remember that remark and I hated him that day and ever after. It is so funny, how we remember all this decades later.
Take care, Relyn.
Best,
Lubna

Anita said...

As a teacher, I know exactly what you mean...it IS an important job...and the cards and notes and wedding invites you get years later really DO touch your heart...and on rough days, I would pull out that file and reread those notes...

Next week I start subbing...I'm printing your post as a reminder :)

Susan Tuttle said...

you are full of wisdom -- your students are blessed to have you as a loving, caring teacher:)

Patti said...

Thos reminders Relyn are perfect. And sooo true. They will come around Relyn, they will (it might be April tho when they do...) especially with consistent kindness and gentleness which you exude. Tough classes are what great memories and victories we teachers hold on to! You will look back on this year and these kids with true fondness, I know. For me, since your challenge is my everyday, every year challenge, I always remind myself that each child is/was their parents' pride and joy and is I always think what would I do if this were Molly...I don't know, it somehow makes me dig deeper in the caring department of my soul.

Remembering teachers... I remmebr the good ones who I LOVED (and who loved me back-lol) and I rememeber the 1st year Geo teacher in HS who chastised me for having the lowest grade point average in class (I was one of 5 freshmen in a sophomore class) and brought in a paper shopping bag as a booby prize for me to wear over my head. OMG- is that horrid??? I tell my students about that even now.

Happy weekend!

Jaime said...

You are so full of love.

And you are loved.
xoxoxo

Marilyn said...

You have the heart of a good teacher, one the children will remember. I was touched last year by the book your class put together. Those are the things your children will remember.

I remember Miss Gleason in first grade, she got married that year and shared that with us. She had someone bring a fawn to class to visit us and let us touch it. Mrs. Woods, my senior high school English teacher, loved what she taught and it came across to me. I remember her beautiful white hair, grey woolen skirt, and soft pink tops. I was a quiet student and never talked, but somehow she brought words out of me. I was and still am much better in writing than talking, thus blogging is a good format for me. Thanks for the memories.

Oldies, but Goodies