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Teachers do that

By Larry Lee 

In all the great commotion that is a major part of public education these days (such as bloggers and writers like me who feel compelled to support public schools instead of demonize them, legions of bureaucrats tucked in their cubbyholes staring all day at a computer screen, administrators who scurry from meeting to meeting, elected officials who feel anointed as education experts when they are sworn into office and so many more) it is way too easy to lose sight of the fact that learning is about the interaction of a big human (teacher) with a much smaller and younger human (student).

For neither bloggers nor bureaucrats nor elected officials wipe runny noses, or give hugs to first-graders or make sure all children have a snack at break time.  Teachers do that.

And my best guess is that if the pontificators and all their just-named colleagues vaporized, learning would still take place in our classrooms.  But vaporize the teachers and there is no learning.

My long time friend, Kay Brown of Huntsville, understands this and captures it well in the following tribute to her first-grade teacher.  With her permission I share her remembrance of Mrs. Estelle Rogers, who passed away May 26 at the age of 95.

It was 1960 and one girl cried all day long; one girl couldn’t hear well.  One boy could hardly walk or talk and I discovered that one of the boys lived only a half a block away from me.  But the most amazing part of the day was meeting the woman who would impact every single part of the rest of my life.

She was beautiful, well dressed, soft spoken but firm, and called me by name as if she already knew me.  She called me by name for the rest of her life, always remembering me.  I was excited because Mrs. Rogers had been my uncle Randy’s first grade teacher just four years before.  He told me she was the best one to have and of course I trusted his 10 year old judgment.

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There were hundreds of us!  We couldn’t all be present for her service but we were all thinking of Mrs. Rogers.  She taught us to read and write, to add and subtract, to line up in straight lines and to help the boy who couldn’t walk that line too.  She taught us to behave properly and disciplined us with time out in the cloak room.  Who wears a cloak?

When we were 40 or 50 or now over 60, we can still only bring ourselves to call her Mrs. Rogers. In the grocery, at church, at the library, speaking to her club, selling her makeup, walking down the street on the square. In her presence, we are still only six years old and need to show her our good manners.  Many of our hundreds are already in heaven and will greet her the same way.

From that hot classroom in Jacksonville, AL we took away lessons for life.  She taught us to respect each other and to be kind to others.  She taught us to work hard, to think and to stand tall.  She taught us to always remember where we came from.

Mrs Rogers, your calling is complete. We will carry your lessons on from here because you taught us well.. Go with God.

All of us remember a Mrs. Rogers.  Someone who didn’t see us as a data point, but as a delicate flower bursting into the sunlight needing to be watered and nurtured and loved.

And we can all hope that when our time is ended, we may have been so fortunate as to have impacted someone we came in contact with as profoundly as all the Estelle Rogers of this world.


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Larry Lee led the study, Lessons Learned from Rural Schools, and is a long-time advocate for public education.  [email protected]  read his blog:

Larry Lee
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