Monday, November 12, 2012

May 13, 2007 - Happy Mother's Day, Mama! May 13, '07 6:05 AM for everyone The following is an essay I wrote as an assignment for a teacher recertification course I took a few years ago (while I was still living in the US and working as a teacher) - the topic I chose from among several possibilities was "My Best Teacher". The sentiments expressed haven't changed a bit. My Best Teacher As an individual who has always possessed boundless curiosity, I've been fortunate enough to encounter many diverse teachers over the course of my life. I've had the opportunity to learn from some skillful career educators, and I've also learned from others who flew by the seat of their pants. But the best teacher I ever had was not even in the profession, and her education only took her as far as high school graduation. She was (and is) my mother, and I'm so thankful for the many things I've learned from her. My mother grew up in the Depression years, a child whose father had died when she was a toddler. Her family moved around quite a bit, and at the age of eleven she went to live with her sister when her mother remarried; nevertheless, she earned a solid high school education complete with the core courses plus home economics, music, French, and other electives. But so much of what she learned and consequently taught me did not come from her textbooks. The most important things I learned from her were a love of learning, a love of nature, and a love of my fellow man. Both my parents were firm believers in the power of the printed word. My father often said, "If you can read, you can educate yourself." But it was Mama who sat down with us children every night and read to us from the big red Bible Story Book. She brought the characters to life, and even in my earliest years I was overcome with emotion when she read the story of Solomon threatening to cut a baby in half so that he could learn the identity of the true mother. It was my mother who spent every day and night answering the countless questions of my siblings and myself, many of them starting with "How come...?" And it was my mother who sat with us on cold or rainy days showing us the pictures in the old set of encyclopedias our aunt had given us, and waiting patiently while we flipped pages and searched out the answers to the questions that arose as we read and observed. Living just outside the city limits, we had plenty of opportunities to learn about nature firsthand. I remember first of all my mother's love of flowers. We would walk down to the ditchbank where we would see hundreds, perhaps thousands, of violets growing wild. Mama encouraged us to enjoy their beauty but to let them grow so others could enjoy them too. At night, she would take us outside and show us the glory of the heavens, pointing out the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, and other constellations. She taught us to respect the birds and other wildlife around us, even going so far as to forbid us to harm nonpoisonous snakes. I'll never forget her remorse when a neighbor with a garden nearby persuaded her that she should kill a black snake. She brought out the rifle and managed to wound the snake's jaw when she hit the frog it had in its mouth. For years she worried that she had made the poor thing starve to death. My mother also taught me about love for other people. She was shy and reserved, but never hesitated to do what she believed to be the right thing. She often prepared meals for her in-laws; my grandfather had been an invalid since suffering a heat stroke before I was born, and his wife stayed by his side except to go to church or to the doctor. Mama worked hard in the garden but never hesitated a second to share whatever she and my father had grown with kinfolk and neighbors. And when we children had friends over near mealtime, as it often happened, she would tirelessly fry cake after cake of cornbread and let them get their fill before ever piling up the plate for our dinner. But the lesson in love that I found the most moving was when I told her about a classmate of mine who never had any lunch money, nor anything to eat from home. Mama gave me the money each week to take to our fifth-grade teacher, and insisted that no one should know about it, so that little girl could eat each day without giving up any of her pride. She didn't do it for recognition, or for reward--she did it out of love for a child she didn't even know. (And she took a pretty good risk that if my father ever found out he'd have raised the roof.) Yes, my students seem to think I'm pretty smart--full of all sorts of information, some useful, some not so useful. But they know, or should, as often as I remind them, that by no means do I know everything. Still, they know that I will go to great lengths to try to help them find what they need, whether from books or through our school's computer network. But I owe all the credit to my first and best teacher, my mother, who taught me to love the world I live in, to love learning about it, and most of all to love the other people who share it with me. Thanks, Mama. ====== p.s. I sent a copy of this to my mother. Her reply? > I always knew that I was saved for something, after running in front of a > car, being knocked out and into a ditch with several inches of water in > it, suffering a broken leg,being unconscious for a week, and goodness > only knows what else. Thank YOU!

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