Sunday, September 13, 2009

In honor of Grandparents Day

In case you were unaware, today happens to be Grandparents Day. My children called one set of their grandparents to say send their love over the phone (Evelyn yelled, "Happy birthday parents day!" Don't think she quite understood the holiday. By the way...Mom, your grandparents gift is in the mail.) and saw the other set at church this morning. They are a lucky set of kids to have such fantastic and involved grandparents.

In honor of Grandparents Day, I am re-running an article/speech about my Grandmother that I presented when she was placed into my hometown's Hall of Fame a few years ago. My Grandmother is one special lady who I love deeply. Enjoy these words about her life as a teacher!

In my former life before I was a Stay-at-home Mommy, I was a teacher. Although I believe the field of education to be an excellent career choice, I actually happened to fall into this profession accidentally. Weeks before I was set to graduate with my Masters degree in Child Psychology, my graduate class was part of a round-table discussion with several professionals from our field. Many of these speakers urged us to have a back-up plan, citing that money-making opportunities in the therapy field were few and far between at that time. Fabulous. I was weeks away from graduating, about to be married, my soon-to-be husband was in school full-time working on a PhD, and we had massive school loans from a private university. And now I needed a back-up plan.

My back-up plan turned into my career when I was presented with the job of teaching special education at an elementary school. I quickly discovered that I loved being in the classroom. As a young girl, who changed her lofty career aspirations on a weekly basis, I would have scoffed at anyone who might have predicted I would become a teacher. My mother was a teacher. My grandmother was a teacher. I was definitely not going to become a teacher. Funny how some things change.

At the young age of twenty, my grandmother, Marjorie M***, was assigned to teach the 11th grade Science class at in a small rural town. Despite the fact her students were only a few years younger than she, my grandmother met the challenge with a determination to successfully manage and teach her classroom. This was the beginning of 31 years spent teaching.

Twenty eight of those years were spent in the *** Public School system, teaching second grade. My grandmother originally began working at McRae Elementary School, then transferred over to Sidney Deener upon its opening, where she taught the remainder of her career. On opening day of Deener Elementary, Grandmother loaded the school bus along with her children and their text books and traveled across town to their new school.

The principal who my grandmother served under for many years once wrote the following sentiment in a birthday card to her, “Learning was easy in your room because you taught people how to learn. You knew just how they were to do this and when you closed your classroom door every morning you wanted no outside interference from anyone. Period.”

Before my elementary school days began, I can remember visiting Grandmother’s class on several occasions, feeling quite envious of the fun had by her students. Grandmother often said during her years of teaching, “You never know what kind of morning a child has had in getting off to school. “ Because it was inevitable that some child in her class had experienced a rough start on any particular morning, Grandmother always began each school day by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, marching the class around the room to a patriotic song, and then participating in a group sing-a-long. Years from now, I know I will still be able to close my eyes tightly and envision my Grandmother dancing around her classroom, cheered on by adoring eight year olds, to the Oakridge Boys “Elvira.” A fellow teacher once said, “We always knew we could depend on Mrs. Martin to be our song leader every morning. The rest of us barely got through the Pleadge and “My Country Tis of Thee” but Marjorie’s kids did that and show tunes.”
After the singing of “Oklahoma” and “Hello Dolly!” had come to an end and the old brown record player was stashed away for another morning, Grandmother stood before a class of smiling second graders who were now ready to learn for the day. Countless children walked through the doors of my Grandmother’s classroom. They not only developed a love for learning—from reading to grammar to mathematics--- they also learned they were a person of value and at the very least they were loved deeply by their teacher, Mrs. M.

Long after her retirement, Grandmother is still approached by former students. These people typically recognize the familiar red hair and inquire if Grandmother happens to be Mrs. M, their beloved second grade teacher from Sidney Deener. Stories then flow from these former students’ mouths about afternoons spent on the floor by the old brown recliner, listening to Grandmother read the story of Little Lost BoBo. They reminisce about her trademark plaid coat she sported on the playground during the winter months and recite her well-known phrases of “Why the Very Idea” and “I ought to snatch you bald-headed.” Regardless of the memory shared, the sentiment remains the same: The time spent inside the walls of that second grade classroom deeply touched the lives of many individuals, creating experiences and lessons they will never forget.

My grandmother was married to my grandfather for 59 years. Together they had one beautiful daughter, who happens to be my mom. Grandmother is now a great-grandmother to four great-grandchildren. She lovingly refers to these four as “my babies.” Last Christmas she presented me with my own copy of Little Lost Bobo so the story can remain alive in our family. Grandomother retired from teaching in 1985, yet continued to substitute teach for many years afterwards because she missed the classroom. She was often requested by students upon hearing of their teacher’s upcoming absence.

Years after my Grandmother left teaching, I found myself in the classroom, singing crazy songs and able to get students in line with a simple look. One particular afternoon, my mother happened to be in town and had come to visit my classroom. As she was helping me prepare things for the next day, she asked how I knew to do the things I was doing in my classroom.
My response was simple.

“It’s in my blood.” I told her. I had spent years watching both my grandmother and my mother teach, eagerly soaking in their natural ability to cultivate learning and command respect. Grandmother was a teacher in every sense of the word, from her professional attire, to her ability to instruct, to her unyielding love for even the rowdiest of students. I was extremely blessed to sit at her feet and attain such an informal education.

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