Saturday, January 19, 2008

Getting A Little Personal: Part 5 Return to Education

The Prelude
Part 1: Early Education
Part 2: MisEducation
Part 3: Educating Them & Us
Part 4: Home Schooling
Part 5: Return to Education
Part 6: Education of a Mayor
The Epilogue

There are two stories I would like to share to end this series of post. So far I've talked about my early education and the crazy teacher I had in junior high. Well, there was another teacher that I had in junior high. She was the French teacher and her name was Mrs. Rich.

I returned to my junior high school about 15 years after I graduated. The first teacher that I ran into happened to be a black teacher and she actually recognized me. She asked me if I was one of the gifted kids and I answered that I was. She is the one that told me about Mr. Williams conviction and then she told me to make sure that I saw Mrs. Rich before I left. I have to tell you, this was one of the strangest experiences ever.

I went to the teachers lounge where there were about 10 teachers sitting around talking to each other. I saw my old Aviation club teacher and before I could say anything, Mrs. Rich yelled out, "I know you! I know exactly who you are. Please come and sit with me, I want to talk with you." It was like she had been waiting for me for the last 15 years. That would have been one thing if we had had a good relationship but that was not the case. What happened next knocked me off my feet.

She said, "Please tell me that you are okay. Are you okay?" Before I could answer, she grabbed me by the hands and said, "I need to know that you are okay. I have thought about you many times over the years and hoped that your life turned out well." Weird right? That's what I thought. She continued, "I know that we had some really rocky times back then but I always believed that there was a 50% chance that you would be a star and a 50% chance that you wouldn't make it." I told her I was a star. I mean, what could I say? She was grabbing my hands tighter and looking in my eyes. She then told me that she was sorry for how she had treated me as a child. She told me that she had grown a lot and realized that because of her views and her actions that she may have caused me irreparable harm. She told me again that she was sorry and hoped that I could forgive her. She assured me that today she treats ALL of her students with great dignity and respect. If you haven't figured it out, she had none of that for me in the 70's. She was horrible to me. It was a special kind of horrible that she reserved for the few black children the she encountered. She did everything that she could to remove me from her advanced French class and continually gave me low grades that I didn't deserve.

Here was this lady, that I hadn't given much thought telling me that she had always thought about me. She had a tear in her eye when she said to me, "I'm better now and I really am sorry." We both knew what she had done. I told her about all the things that I had done in my life and the places that I had been. She lit up and started to smile. I told her that she would have destroyed my self-concept had it not have been for the continual lessons that I had learned from my mother, "get your lesson!"

About a week later I received a post card in the mail from her. She apologized again and told me that me stopping by had, "given her a chance to heal where I was concerned."

I still have that post card!

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