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"Teacher of the Century"

Children Teachers

Teacher of the Century

    The wave of my second writing was ages eleven and twelve and into thirteen. It was at a time in my life that I so wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “STOOOPPPPPPP!” It was aimed at the cruelty of the world. Or rather I should say the dismissiveness of the lesser, the poor, the helpless. Yes, that was and is me. I’m still that same being. So the other night as I prayed for people, for my family, for self, for our household. These thoughts arose over and over again, in between my prayers and meditations. At those ages I refer to, I was in my middle school years. I kept diaries those years somewhat regularly.
    One of those years, I was tremendously blessed. I had a language arts teacher, Ms. Beltrami. She was frail, she was kind. She appeared sickly. But inside all of that, I saw reserve and gentleness in her.  I only wanted her to be happy.  I saw inside her soul. Sometimes, people let me do that.  And other times I’m gifted that view from another source. Not even if I don’t want to see what is inside the other being that stands in the room. I feel pain when I’m in pain and whether it is mine or someone else’s, I may still feel it. Many times, I feel other’s pain is much harsher. Harsher to them, because they don’t understand it.  Yet me the outsider just might.

    So, this one year with Ms. Beltrami I wrote like a mad-woman for her.  I struggled in reading. I struggled in comprehension of grammar.  Yet, I could write. I cannot for the life of me remember how many pieces I wrote for her. I got A’s and B’s, even when I failed tests and quizzes. She encouraged me to write.  I remember those eyes looking down at me from her pale complexion, accepting what only I had to offer her. What I offered her, was understanding of all the cruelties humanity had to offer. That’s what I wrote about. It was pure heart and soul.
   One day my mother saw the writings I was doing.  As well, Mom had snuck into my one drawer that I kept my diaries in and read some. My Mom had this concerned look on her face.

“Jody, what you write is horrible. I mean, you really feel that way?”  She asked.  I didn’t know how to reply.  I was age twelve at the time.  So, instead I apologized for freaking Mom out. Then she asked, “What does it do for you?”
I replied, “The diary writing. I need to talk to someone.  But yet, God doesn’t always respond the way a human does.  Yet, He understands me. So, once I write it, I feel better.”
She seemed a bit astonished, I gather. She then continued, “What about the writings that you do for Language Arts? Do you share them?”
I replied, “Yes, Ms. Beltrami loves them.  They make her happy.”
Mom remarked, “But they seem so sad.” 
I responded, “Well, it’s about life. You know feelings. It’s good, if it makes her happy.  I’m getting good grades. She tells me so.”
Mom pursued, “So, your writing like that, you think makes her happy. So, that’s why you get good grades from her?”
I replied, “My sadness makes her happy.  Because she needs to know I understand her
feelings. And it’s okay. The world’s a tough place for her, Mom.”
    My three years in that new school system, were some of the toughest years of my life. I was bullied nearly all the time, inside and out of school. I had no friends, accept my dog and God. That was it. Ms. Beltrami, a teacher although not a friend.  She was someone who benefitted from my honesty and my view of the pains in life. I saw this, and I wondered how others couldn’t.
    One day around the beginning of the third marking period of seventh grade Ms. Beltrami was no longer.  Another woman became my teacher.  She confronted me, “I will not accept your writing as your grade.” She commented.  If I knew then how to curse back at her, I think I would have called her a SOB. To this day, I see her as an uncompromising bitch.  Not because of how she was going to grade me. It was how she had delivered the message. As well she not asking me to stay after school, in order to speak with me privately, I would NOT have haggled. Because I had too much respect for teachers and those in authority to even think of haggling. She assumed.  And with that, I resented. 
    Imagine having a child who may not be undisciplined who could make your life a living hell in class.  I had nothing to lose. No one cared. Yet, I knew better than she did. I bit my tongue, acted stupid and did whatever I wanted to. I could not be embarrassed, because I’d already been pushed too far.
    To this day, I think about Ms. Beltrami and what made her disappear. It could’ve been death, depression, long term illness. It wasn’t the first time I had a favorite teacher leave my presence.  Yet, it was the first time one left and was never heard from again. Just like any child, I had my favorites.  Ms. Beltrami was one of them. My Mom was astonished that I let Ms. Beltrami take thirty of my writings home with her. Only she was never to return. Mom was upset for me about that.  Yet, I explained to Mom, “It’s not about me.  She needs those writings. It’s my gift to her. So, it’s okay.”         
    Yet, the gift I received was giving someone understanding.  To me giving understanding to someone is the most precious gift we can give one another as human beings.  It is what makes the world go round.---Jody-Lynn Reicher


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