When I first came to Fifth District Elementary School in 1995, I spent a great deal of my day as a special educator working in fourth grade. There were some students with significant educational needs and, there was a teacher who welcomed me into her classroom with enthusiasm–and cookies.
On Friday, I was standing in that teacher’s classroom–as a fourth grade teacher–when I got word of her death.
My desk holds a photograph of Mary as well as two other fourth grade teachers with whom I shared that space when they taught fourth grade there and I was a special educator. These three women have shaped the teacher I am–and since I have spent so many of my waking hours there–the person I am as well.
I am new to teaching fourth grade in this space. And I am finding that it is a good way to spend my waking hours–in this room, with the students, and the teachers who were there before me.
I spent yesterday afternoon in fourth grade. Most of the students had a bit of free time towards the end of the day as I worked with other students to finish an assignment or catch up after an absence. One of my fourth graders stopped by my table and handed me a drawing. “I made this for you,” he said. I looked down at the drawing and up at this nine year old and thanked him. It is courage–and drawings–and the kindness of extending such to others that is what pulls us through.
Mary will continue to live on in Room 6, and beyond, as all of those taught by her move through this world. And as I sit in front of a pile of papers and plans on a rainy Saturday afternoon, she lives on in me too.