Thursday, March 29, 2012

Three Mentors

1.  She was my sixth grade teacher.   She made me decide once and for all that teacher is what I wanted to be when I grew up.  When I was a junior and senior in high school, I was her teacher's aid.  I'd walk to the elementary school from the high school for one period each day.  I designed bulletin boards for her.  (She taught me purple was the all purpose border...it works with every season and every holiday.)  Sometimes she had me work with struggling students.  Sometimes she had me correct papers.  (Sometimes I would forget to correct papers and find myself absorbed in her words.)  She had my friend Wyatt and me teach country swing dancing to the class at Christmas time.  We danced to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and it was fun.

When I was in college, training to be a teacher, she told me that she'd give me all of her teaching supplies when she retired.  It took my breath away.  For one thing, I was completely honored that she'd select me of all people and for another thing, she had amazing things.

I quit teaching school after Braeden was born and I've always felt like I let her down.  She didn't end up giving me her teaching supplies.

My children love ancient history because I love ancient history.  I love ancient history because of her.

I think about her all the time.

2. She was my creative writing teacher in college.  She breathed life into the small bubble inside of me that wanted to write.  After her classes, I needed to write.  I put more effort into her classes than all my other college courses combined.  She made me laugh every week.  Her praise meant the world to me.  She taught me to write in my own voice and to not take myself too seriously.  I took every class from her that I could.

When I saw her, several years after college, she remembered me (!).  She asked me if I was still writing.  I stammered that I was not.  I had babies and toddlers.  I was trying to accomplish big things like make dinner and change diapers.  I was not writing.

The disappointment on her face was obvious.

Every day I want to write more than I do.  Every day it gets shoved to the bottom of the list.  It is on the list though.

I think about her all the time.

3.  She was my principal when I taught school at a tiny private school.  She stood by the door each morning, greeting each student by name.  She stood by the door every afternoon, wishing every student a good evening.  She was elegant and wise, a spectacular teacher and exceptionally kind.  When I told her I was expecting a baby, she was thrilled.  (She had raised seven of her own.)  When I told her I thought I'd better keep teaching after he was born, because Adam was still in college, her face clouded.  She said, "You don't want to do that."  She explained that babies grow up fast and also how they grow up is not always in your control.  She said, "You don't want to look back and wish you'd spent more time, that you'd rocked them more as a baby."

I believed her.  I quit teaching and we were extraordinarily poor.

I have tried to live by what she taught me.  I've tried to spend the time.  Sometimes I miss the mark.

But I know which target I am aiming for.

I think about her all the time.

5 comments:

Janet said...

I admire the way that you have combined your love of teaching with your desire to be with your children--it's brilliant really.

You hit the mark way more often than you miss it.

p.s. Glad you're back.

Marianne said...

I don't know why this made me cry.

Mark Dahl said...

Very nice, Thelma. I'm glad you had all three of them.

Your mom

Olivia Cobian said...

This makes me cry too. Edgar came in and said, "Are you ok?" That's first mentor may yet give you her teaching stuff. Is it too late?

Olivia Cobian said...

I meant "That first mentor" without an 's.

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