|Once Bibb City School - Columbus, GA|
and have not graduated..."
--R.S. Thomas, Collected Later Poems
Not too long ago I went back to my hometown and wandered around my old haunts. The house I was born in. The mill across the street where my parents worked for years and years. The store right next to our house where we bought many of our groceries. The tiny white row after row mill houses where people I knew used to live. They have all moved away or died. I looked up at the church with its tall white columns. I used to think was the biggest and prettiest church in the world. The swimming pool where we swam every summer—now concreted over. But when I stopped in front of the red-brick building which was my school for the first seven years of my schooling my, my but the memories swirled.
Bill Clinton came breezing into Greenville the other day to talk about education. He started by naming every schoolteacher he had grade by grade. Amazing. I couldn’t do that. I don’t remember many of them. I cannot see their faces. But I remember especially my first grade teacher. Miss Beggs. I don’t know how old she was—she wasn’t married. I remember those starched dresses that she wore. I remember she had sort of blonde hair. I remember she wore glasses with plastic frames.
I remember her kindness. Grabbing my hand some day as we walked to the playground. Did she know how scared I was those first few days? I don’t remember anything she taught—I just remember her name, out of most of the others. She stands out tall and important in my heart.
I had no idea that was the beginning of a magnificent journey. She opened the door that first day and invited me in. What if that had been a bad experience? What if she had not cared for me and all the others? Would I have journeyed from there to here without that first great nudging? Who knows?
Students in my town are moving back in. Runners are everywhere. You can just feel the excitement welling up day after day. Down the street from where I live there is an elementary school. When they open their doors I wonder if there will be other scared nervous first graders especially who have no idea what to expect. But I guarantee you that many of those teachers will give their hearts away to those that have come those doors. And those that come will discover years later that their lives have been changed.
Teachers are having a hard time these days. The forms they have to fill out are endless. The interminable meetings never seem to stop. Some of the parents will give them a hard time. Some of the students will be difficult. And the pay will not be near-good enough. The world doesn’t think much of the teachers. Public education is not a high priority in most states—and most politicians have forgotten or never knew that special day when the door first opened and the wonders of the world began to unfold.
So I whisper a prayer again this year for all those that teach. I pray as those teachers wrap up their day and close the doors and head for home day after day—they will know that what they do is one of the most important jobs in the world.
RogerLovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com