On an early evening we went to her house with a birthday card and a small blooming plant. She wasn’t expecting us and we could hear the loud television volume as we entered her porch. Mrs. Jones came to the door in her housecoat and bare feet. She apologized for looking slightly disheveled but she had no air conditioning and it had been unusually hot.
We followed her to her dimly lit, slightly stuffy living room, where she had been soaking her feet in cool water. Mrs. Jones could still laugh with us and converse on any topic. Last year I took a kindergarten class photo and she knew most of the children’s names. While I sat in an antique chair, we chatted about her farm, her children, grandchildren and community. Her grandson was managing the extensive farm and her great-granddaughter had recently started college. She had survived years as a school teacher, wife and mother; and the previous week she had turned 90 years old. However, none of us mentioned the number.
I love this part of the story. Widow Mrs. Jones and our widower father kept company for about six years until his death. She had been brave or lonely enough to try friendship with an aging man during their 80s. That was when we all got reaquainted during my home visits. Dad and Mrs. Jones never remarried but kept their own houses and farms, yet enjoyed going on errands, eating at restaurants, and going to functions and medical appointments together. They sometimes took food to men harvesting on her farm, watched a Saturday evening polka program and attended the local senior center. I believe Mrs. Jones even taught our father a thing or two!
Visiting Mrs. Jones brought to my mind other memorable teachers. Our mother and aunt taught in rural one-room schools when our parents met. I had the honor of having my high school physics teacher as the man who had been my father’s high school principal. He was probably retirement age when he was still trying to teach science to hormone-crazed teenagers! Two of my cousins and me took piano lessons from a farm wife who was a patient and kind instructor. My own children adored the woman who was their first grade teacher. A little later they attended a one-room school for a year where the very mature teacher managed six children in four grade levels.
I believe most of us teach someone along life’s journey. However, those who have dedicated themselves to teaching children are a special gift to this world and future generations. They help create the atmosphere and invitation for the exploration of knowledge. When I see Mrs. Jones I can still see glimpses of that young woman who welcomed me into almost 16 years of formal education. I can also remember some of the words to the “Kookaburra” song.
So to those inspired and courageous people who have wiped noses and probably bottoms, cleaned up vomit and cleaned up classrooms, who have been middle managers between parents and administrators, who observed playgrounds in the heat and the snow, who have forfeited time with their own families to grade papers or prepare lessons, who have strained their own brains in creative ways to light a fire in sometimes very dense or traumatized minds; for your patience, your poor pay, your lack of sleep, your sacrifices—this blog is for Mrs. Jones and for you!
Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:-
- Read Titus 2:1-8 and respond. Do you fit in this passage or realize a need?
- Consider your most influential teacher and what you learned from that person.