A teacher’s daily routines require more study, planning and paperwork than a constitutional amendment. During flu season, they spend 47 percent of their income on tissues.
Such conditions might discourage applicants, even with perfect students. Educational research, however, has yet to discover a cure for classroom chaos. As one veteran educator expressed it, children operate in reverse gears: they run when they should walk and walk when they should run. Still, teachers attempt to focus 20 or 30 little brains upon lessons, a task which resembles seven hours in a roomful of Super Balls.
Every teacher each Friday should receive a mug of dark chocolate cocoa with double whipped cream served on a silver platter by a grateful former student. (Plus a free box of tissues.)
I recall Mrs. Madge Cole, my elementary teacher, who defied our rural county’s mold. From the moment she arrived from the urban planet of Akron, Ohio, she ran grammar boot camp. She forbade “ain’t” and its essential derivatives. When a freckle-faced child of the cornfields asked, “I hain’t got a Kleenex; cain’t I use my sleeve?” Mrs. Cole fixed said student with a fishy green eye and marked triple demerits in her Grade Book of Doom.
My parents never used the area’s vernacular, so I hadn’t absorbed it. At school, though, I salted my speech with local color to keep from being different, which struck more terror into my heart than the school lunch. When Mrs. Cole came to town, I dropped the habit—fast.
She took no interest in popularity polls. Mrs. Cole gave daily social studies quizzes. As the year wore on, she added notches to her six-shooter. Our class celebrated school’s end with wild relief—until we learned Mrs. Cole, too, had been promoted and would teach us the following year.
Later, attending a high school of 3,000, I could speak well. I could write well. I could look a test in the eye and spit in its face. Mrs. Cole had done us ingrates favors far beyond knowing the date Magellan sailed.
I lost track of my teacher. I wish now I could surprise Mrs. Cole in her classroom some war-weary Friday, grading those quizzes. I’d take her a big mug of hot cocoa with oodles of whipped cream and thank her—again and again. Give her two boxes of tissues.
Afterward, I’d whisper, “I ain’t never had a teacher like you since, Mrs. Cole.”
Then check over my shoulder to see if she heard me.
How about you? Did a certain teacher make a big difference in your life?