March 12, 2008
17 years old at the time
I was an average student who enjoyed school most of the time, except for my problem of "shyness". What brought about my being shy I still don't really know, but in those special years at school, it was a thorn in my side and certainly kept me from fully expressing myself, as so many others did so very well.
We were blessed by a most gifted teacher in Grade 12, and it wasn't until that year that I felt a teacher's kindness in understanding and trying to lift me up.
One instance of her unique way of communicating with me was when she abruptly said "all right class, put everything away and write a 3000 word essay, you have half an hour." Well, I knew this particular essay was an important one, but my head wouldn't cooperate for a few minutes. Luckily I enjoyed fantasy books, so when I looked at the blackboard (Colin usually wiped it clean for the teacher, but it was still a chalky mess) I saw interesting formations and I had my story. Something about a moon-faced man with a scimitar of a grin, inviting me to enter and join him in an adventure. Sister gave me an A (unheard of for me) and we began a dialogue of little written notes in my Composition book.
Another instance of her kindness was when she read us the poem Chicago by Carl Sandburg, and asked the class, "Now class, what is the Poet actually saying"? Without thinking I half put up my hand (I had situated myself in the center of the middle row so I couldn't be seen well by the teacher, and felt protected from her scrutiny). So when she noticed my half-hearted hand up, she ignored the flapping hands of her more promising students and quickly said, "Yes, Kathy, give us your opinion." Well, in a low choking voice (I remember having to force myself to speak up properly, as this shyness manifested itself in total abject fear) I gave her my opinion.
And this is where my teacher won a medal -- there was a pregnant silence, then she continued to say something like, "Class, every now and then there is a student who truly understands the deeper message of a poem, and Kathy has grasped the significance of the poet's strong words in explaining the city that is Chicago." Well, all my schoolmates made faces at me because of such an accolade, and they couldn't know how much I would later dissect this day and see it as, perhaps, my only academic achievement in my full 12 years.
Today, as an adult of 67 years, I have overcome my shyness for the most part (there are those that actually think of me as ostentatious), and I have no trouble in expressing myself fully when required, but I will always remember my Grade 12 teacher, for being instrumental in promoting my fuller personality, with humour and kindness.