Saturday, July 12, 2008

The First Day of School


When I was a kid (don't you just love it when someone OLD starts a story like that?), we didn't go to school until after Labor Day. I honestly believe the state of Texas could balance the state budget if they started school in September...just think of all the air conditioning money we could save. I know September is hot too, but August is MEAN.

Anyway, I have been thinking of the first day of school. I was remembering when I was in the fifth grade, and my first day of school that year. You see...my mother worked in the same school as I attended. In fact, I had her best friend for my fourth grade teacher and Mom was right next door! I was hoping for a better "situation" in fifth grade. I got to know this really nice fifth grade teacher, I let my mother know I wanted to be in that class. My mother would just smile and say, "we'll see." That began to worry me...especially since there was also a really FIERCE teacher in fifth grade, and I didn't want any part of her class.

The first day of school, I walked down the fifth grade hall. On each door was a posted list of all the students in that class. First, I went to the nice teacher's door, but my name wasn't on her list. Then I went to all the other classroom doors, but my name wasn't on any of their lists either. I knew what that meant...because I had deliberately avoided checking the door of the fierce teacher. Sure enough...my name was on her door. I slowly walked in that room...several of my friends were in this room too, but no one was smiling. We knew all we needed to know.

That was the best year I ever had as a student. Mrs. Mary Matern was the best teacher I ever had. She WAS fierce...but she was also talented. She took a bunch of smart-alecks and made us behave, work, and (most importantly) learn. She was my model for the way I teach today...except that she also taught us to be ourselves.

Cancer took this wonderful woman many years ago, but I have never forgotten her. Sometimes when I stop and think about it, I wonder if she is watching me. If so, I hope she is proud of me. That would mean a lot.

Each year, as another school year approached, I always hoped none of my new students were afraid of me before you even got to know me. I am not as fierce as Mrs. Matern, but I will make you behave, work, and learn. If not, I would not be able to face myself. I would know Mrs. Matern would be disappointed.

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