Monday, May 02, 2005

Perfect love is this...

Long ago, in my early years of teaching first grade, I had a little girl named Sheila in my class. On the very first day of her life that she ever came to school (this was before there were kindergartens in public schools) her mother dropped her off at my classroom door. When Sheila went home that day, she discovered that her mother had left the family for good. As far as I know, Sheila did not hear from her mother again.

Of course, Sheila was crushed, devastated, and also feeling unbearably guilty, because as her father later told me, he had warned Sheila repeatedly that her mother would leave if she, Sheila, kept crying. The second day of school, then, Sheila's father brought her to my door and she was crying. I had no help. There were no school counselors in those days. So, I did the only thing I could think of. I sat in my chair with Sheila in my lap and my arms around her. I conducted my class from that chair for an hour or two that day and for many, many weeks afterward, waiting an hour or so each day for Sheila to become calm enough to get down from my lap.

Gradually, through the year, Sheila began to heal. At the end of the year, she and her father moved, and I never heard from them again. I don't recall either of them saying a word of thanks – and no wonder, they were in deep pain. I thought of Sheila only occasionally.

Then, perhaps twenty years later, I attended a funeral in the community where I had taught. At the funeral home, a middle-aged woman I did not recognize came up to me. She said, “My daughter Nancy was in your first grade class many years ago.”

I remembered Nancy, as I did many of my students. Nancy's mother continued. “Nancy is a teacher now. A good one. You know, Nancy told us again and again that she wanted to be a teacher just like you, Mrs. Schneider, because she remembered how you held a crying little girl in your arms day after day, and she loved your kindness.”

That single affirmation warms me still today.


By Janet Schneider, who is the teacher we all wished we had


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