Last night, Husband and I attended Twelfth Night festivities (two nights early, but who’s counting?) at the home of an old friend. I was surprised to see my elementary school art teacher among the guests. Her hair, once jet black, is now snow-white and her face, while still familiar to me, has softened with wrinkles. But her eyes were exactly the same.
She remembered me as a talented young artist and was dismayed to hear I hadn’t kept up with it. Then she told me a story.
Back then, we had only two levels of school: elementary and high school. Elementary was Kindergarten through sixth grade and high school was seventh through twelfth grade. When the students moved from sixth to seventh grade, there was a “graduation” ceremony, complete with awards. My art teacher was tasked with choosing which of her students would receive the art award and she had narrowed it down to two students: myself and another young lady. While I had the greater talent, she said, the other student worked harder at improving herself and so she decided the award should go to the hard worker.
She said it’s always bothered her that she didn’t give me, the more talented student, the award.
I told her I completely understood that, while talent should be awarded, hard work should as well. I also told her that little has changed, as my long-suffering editors can attest. Yes, I have talent, but it has to be coaxed, cajoled, and bullied out of me.
The relief on her face was nice to see. After forty years — forty years! — she could finally put this little demon to rest. But, what struck me about her tale was how little value we place on those amazing teachers in our lives. That there are some who care so deeply about their students that they will fret over a small incident like that.
Teachers are extraordinary people and should be revered as such. I wish I understood that better forty years ago…