Saturday, February 16, 2013

Teacher Meets Student

"One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child."  ~ Carl Jung

For myself there were many teachers that touched on my feelings; that gave warmth to my growing soul, but none quite like one teacher.  She was the first teacher growing up that inspired me, of whose class I loved, and always think fondly of.  For me, she preceded all my other teachers I think fondly of; when I think of my significant teachers, I think of her first and foremost. 

When I was a young girl, I pined over Ms. Johnson.  A teacher that was considered “that” teacher, everyone raved about her.  My first memory of her was a school rally of sorts, while I watched her so enthusiastically rally her class, into a cheer that their loud and voluminousness cheer jokingly gusted her over, as her class smiled and laughed in agreement and comradery.  So when I came to be a 5th and 6th grader, I yearned and crossed all my fingers and toes to be assigned to Ms. Johnson’s class.  Much to my delight I was! 

While in her class she was everything a teacher should be, and everything a young kid could want: she was young cool and hip, she had command over the class.  She taught with conviction and passion. The self-assurance and enthusiastic presence in the classroom was infectious.   If ever we didn't meet her expectations, or misbehaved for her or any substitute there was sure terror in our bodies.  She cared about her students and was involved in school activities, and we loved her for it – all of it!  Without a doubt Ms. Johnson rattled me when I slacked off; and because I was eager for her approval, I was eager to atone for my lack of work.  She poked fun at us – myself included – and let us do the same to her.  In fact, one of us did just that in their daily journals; Ms. Johnson would be the lead character on some epic, embarrassing, and elaborate story, that this student reveled in sharing with the class (every day), and Ms. J would grin over in amusement.  Truth be told, before Ms. Johnson I don’t quite remember enjoying school quite as much as being in her class.    

So as I’ve been reconnecting with friends from my youth while acclimating back home, my longest friend to date and I tried visiting Ms. Johnson, more than a decade after leaving her class.  Well, that reunion of sorts finally happened: what a treat is was! 

What turned into a failed attempt to visit her at her current school, turned into a thread of emails back and forth trying to find a day and time to meet up and catch up.  Wouldn't you know the only good time was a classic happy hour rondevu?   As that day approached, so did my anticipation to connect with my favorite grade school teacher.  After getting off work late, and rushing to meet Ms. Johnson, I finally made it to the restaurant, not before making it inside when I heard a familiar voice say, “so do you get a detention for being late?”  What a witty ambush greeting! 

Sitting across the table during happy hour with my former teacher that taught me when I was eleven and twelve was a delightful and unreal encounter!  Over the course of the night as we shared nachos, a quesadilla, sipped our booze, and shared highlights and low-lights with each other from the past ten plus years.  Much to my pleasant surprise, commonality of many things are surprisingly shared between former student and former teacher: a parent who battled, and is now battling cancer, similar travel experiences and aspirations, parallels in family roles we both have in common, and a similar outlook and attitude on many a things.    

As I sat there across the table from my former teacher, I thought: what an awesome moment!  For a teacher who once taught me as a shy and tubby girl, to now sharing how far I’ve come in all my endeavors thus far: unreal.  For a teacher who inspired, and delighted me as a child, to now be speaking on adult terms with, and all the swear words that come with it (and without the threat of a call home): amusing!  For a teacher who taught me more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic, but how to be confidant, bold and determined, to now be sharing more in common with her than the fact that I can now drink, but that we could exchange stories of teaching, of cancer battles, of family drama, of dating and life: sublime! 

At one point over the course of appetizers and conversation, I felt a full circle of sort of feeling.  Here sitting across from me was my former teacher, who I adored (and still do), and hearing her recall and remember all these traits that was me when I was a quite girl with big rimmed glasses, but also someone who she saw took care of people around me, to hear in so many words give me affirmation of who I was then, but to affirm how far I’ve come, and the growth she saw in me that night.  To put that feeling in a word: uplifting! And for that there is much gratitude!

Before this delightful rondevu of sorts I was invited over the thread of emails back and forth to address Ms. Johnson by means of her first name.  Suffice it to say, I couldn't quite bring myself to initially.  If memory serves me right, I said that was more surreal than the thought of having “adult beverages” with her.  Yet after a night of good food, drinks, conversation and a pleasant reunion, she referred to me as a friend, that she’d enjoy doing this again.  And so it goes, I could finally make that leap from looking at her as my fond teacher Ms. Johnson, to a new mentor and friend, Gloria!  

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