Cocoa for Mrs. Cole

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?

4 thoughts on “Cocoa for Mrs. Cole

  1. J

    I teach 2 year olds. Most of my students, who just moved up to their new class, will not remember me 6 months from now. I won’t receive dark-chocolate-cocoa tributes from them once they learn to write. Heck, right now they’re still learning to SPEAK. But my hope is that roots were sunk deep, that seeds of faith were sown and that efforts entered eternity. No one sees the foundation of a house–they praise the walk-in closet and the wraparound porch, they admire the curtains. But I remind myself that my role in the invisible foundation matters more than their memories. I remind myself of Colossians 3:23-24.

    Rachael, as I think about your post from the teacher side, I have to wonder if Mrs. Cole, surrounded by rural slang and the general dislike of her students, ever despaired of what she was working toward as I sometimes do. It certainly sounds like she chose to “work at it with all her heart.” Lord, help me choose this more.

    1. Rachael Phillips

      I don’t think she disliked us–well, most of the time! She was genuinely concerned that we succeed. And Mrs. Cole was going to make sure we did, whether we wanted to or not!

      I’m so glad you care deeply about your two-year-olds. You are making a bigger difference in their lives than you can ever imagine! Blessings on your ministry to them.

  2. Ashley

    I was blessed with several wonderful teachers and a great school experience over all. My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Schmidt, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Butterfield and my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Vogel, were all fantastic!

    1. Rachael Phillips

      Ashley, you were so fortunate to have teachers you admired and enjoyed! I had so many I really can’t count them, but they included Mrs. Daughterty (third grade), Mrs. Baker (fifth grade), Mr. Meek (eighth grade), Mrs. Lawless (sophomore year), and Mr. Robertson (high school choir).


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