Tuesday, August 20, 2013

School Days. . . and Memories of Days Gone By

I got to go to open house at Mason's school tonight.  He will be in 1st grade this year and has a first year teacher who seems sweet and confident.  There were pencils and little desks, blackboards and chalk.  I saw crayons and books, water fountains and bulletin boards.  I watched the parents and children wander through the halls and talk to teachers and find the totes for the backpacks of school supplies.  But what I was really seeing was the second grade classroom at North Park School circa 1980.  My mom taught 2nd grade in the same classroom for almost 25 years.  Her room was next to the office, second room on the left when you entered the building.  She had a wall of windows and a little bathroom in the back corner.  There was always some kind of animal in the room, often fish and hamsters.  The smell was of chalk, pencils and old Chief Tablets.  The hallways echoed with the sounds of children and the click of heels on the polished floors.  I spent many, many, many hours in that room helping my mom.  We put up bulletin boards and alphabet charts.  We marked and organized books and learning resources.  I got to see first hand what it takes to be a great teacher. . . dedication, compassion, love and kindness.  I observed a woman who had honed her craft to a fine science and knew how to reach children and make them feel loved.  She never won any "teacher of the year" awards.  Her students didn't top the charts in the old "achievement" tests.  Her classroom didn't sparkle with perfection and shine.  But what she had was a unique and special knack for touching the children who needed her.  The children who came from homes where turmoil prevailed, the children who were shy and did not like school.  The children who were picked on by others. 
We lost my mom 27 years ago to breast cancer.  She never got to retire from the job that defined her life.  She had a very short time with 4 of her grandchildren and has 3 more she never got to meet.  In her short years, she left a legacy of  love to over 500 children.  Many still remember her and the hugs she gave out.  I know this because her former students still tell me stories about her and the warm experiences they had in her care.
Each year that goes by, I hope that some of the pain of losing my mom lessens.  And I guess it has.  But then there is that school smell, those visual memories of a primary classroom and all the other trappings of an elementary school.  In an instant I am transported back to that little room, and a sweet teacher named Mrs. Hall.  I wish I could tell her what an impact she had on her students.  I wish I could talk to her just one more time and tell her about the impact she has had on my life and how I still strive to be more like her.  For today, I will have to settle for the smell of chalk, the sound of echoes in the hall and the alphabet charts on the walls. 

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