Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I'm not sure exactly when this happened....but lately I find myself expressing opinions that clearly indicate that I have become that person. That jaded and cynical person. Who am I? Where did this come from? I'm not really sure, but whoever she is, she seems to be popping out more and more lately.

Rather than explaining why I'm so jaded (a long and convoluted story) I decided instead to tell the story about why and how I became a teacher. It is a much better story after all. And far more suited to the season....

His name was Greg. He was what we now term special ed. but back then was called a far more unkind word--retarded. He was the boy that looked a little different, smelled a little off and acted a little weird. He would yell at the teachers. Not just yell, but YELL. And curse. Oh my, he would curse at the teachers. Me? I was shy and quiet. My nose always buried in a book, always willing to do ANYTHING to please the teachers. Never wanted to bother anyone.

And Greg had the biggest crush on me.

I have no idea why he picked me. Why he surveyed the crowd and decided to shower his affections on me, the girl who barely spoke is beyond reason or explanation. But he did. And when I say showered, I do mean it. He brought in chocolates. And balloons. And wrote me cards. And made me presents. And chased after me. And talked to me constantly. And did all the things that I would have loved as a single 21 year old (back when I was a single 21 year old) but absolutely hated as a painfully shy 8 year old.
Third graders being the way they are (some things never change), I got teased. Horribly teased. I remember crying-- a lot.

Her name was Mrs. L. She was my teacher, and a kinder, gentler soul definitely does not exist. There was a day when the affections were particulary vocal and the teasing was particularly horrible.... I remember it was a sunny day, but beyond that I can't recall any specifics. Mrs. L decided it was time to go outside, and rather than letting me run off crying (as I was about to do) she sat me down on a seat outside and taught me a lesson. Now, I don't remember her words, but her message was clear. Respect differences. Be kind to everyone, no matter what they look like or how others treat them. Don't let others form your opinions for you. In short, be a good person, always to everyone.

I don't know if it was that exact moment that it coalesced in me to become a teacher myself....in fact, I'm almost sure it wasn't. But I do know that by the time I was in fourth grade I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do. And I never wavered from my conviction once. I knew, back then and even more so today, that if I could make a difference in just one child's life, the way Mrs. L made a difference in mine, then I would have lived a life worth living. And then I would have changed the world.


Kelli said...

Li- I got a little misty-eyed reading this esp. b/c I too was the shy, quiet 8 year old so I could completely imagine how you were feeling with Greg & the teasing.

I know so many children have been blessed to have you as a teacher and they're lucky to have had you touch their lives.
(maybe one day, in the future you'll be blogged about as someone remembers their favorite teacher!)

As for the jaded-ness (I just decided to make that a word) I think being jaded comes in spells...at least it does for me. So hang in there, rockstar.

Tina said...

Jaded? No, that is just your quirky school-marm persona.