I remember skipping down the pathway from kindergarten class to greet my mother singing, “goody, goody, gumdrops.” A friend was by my side, skipping along with me, both of us giggling, as we raced down that path towards our mothers waiting in their cars.
I also remember my teacher, Mrs. F., with such great fondness. If my memory serves me, she was my teacher for first and second grade; first grade at one school and second at another school when she transferred. My mother could have selected a school that was slightly closer to our home; instead she chose the school where Mrs. F. would be teaching. She was bilingual and I have a feeling that she may have spoken to some of us in Spanish at times. I felt safe in her classroom. I remember having fun and learning, and she cared about each and every one of us.
I don’t doubt that it’s difficult to be a teacher. I don’t know if I would be able to juggle so many temperaments and activities by myself. I do think, however, that I would be more in my element as an assistant teacher, possibly in kindergarten through second grade.
Recently when I walked into a second grade classroom the teacher’s back was to me and I was greeted by her words to another student, bending over him, saying, “no, that’s not right,” in a sharp tone. I said, “excuse me,” so that I could get her attention and not risk hearing anymore. I had to say excuse me again. She looked up with a smile on her face. I introduced myself and told her that I was there for one of the students. Oddly enough, it was the student who was being corrected by her.
She seemed nice enough when she didn’t sound so negative with the student, but that scene left a slightly bad taste in my mouth. I felt the words drill into me—not just the words, but the tone in which she said them. I’ve had to tell myself since that time to not be judgmental and remind myself that intuitively I know the teacher’s job is not an easy one and that I only saw a small sliver.
The next time I went to this classroom for the same student, she called the student for me. Just then a young girl second grader got up out of her chair and began moving toward the teacher with a question—pencil and paper in hand—excitement in her voice. “Sit!” the teacher said in an authoritative voice. “Did I say you could get up?” Again the words sliced through me, as the girl turned to go back to her seat. The boy and I left for our reading session.
I wondered to myself if this was typical and if all second grade teachers spoke to their students like this. I also thought of my dear Mrs. F. I do recall that she had to raise her voice a few times, but I don’t know that I remember any scolding that stands out. I’m sure she probably had to be tough with us too. I mostly remember the caring that I felt in her classroom. I can’t remember specific details, just the sound of her voice and the smile on her face.
And about seven to ten years back, I ran into her on two occasions, she was just as I remembered her and didn’t seem to have aged at all. I recognized her immediately, greeted her, and she clearly remembered me and reminisced for a few moments about how she loved her “little angels.”
Something that I had totally forgotten until recently is that the second time that I bumped into her by chance I expressed an interest in teaching. She told me that she was still at the same school where I had gone and to drop by some time and sit in on her class. I have few regrets in life and I try not to make the habit of collecting them. I do wish that I had followed through. I never did. By now she is retired.
But she did make an impression upon me in my childhood and later on in my adulthood when I saw her and spoke very briefly with her. How lucky to bump into your favorite teacher, not once, but twice!
We were her “Little Angels.”