31 May 2007

Well Done, Mom, With Love

Today, My Mom retires after 34 years of teaching. At a time when many of her colleagues want her to stay and members of the community come up to her and ask her to "hold on" for a few more years so their children can be in her classroom, she has rightly decided it's time to go.

She leaves behind a rich legacy that seems to erupt around her when she moves through her hometown, a town that adopted her as a Distinguished Citizen over a decade ago. Thousands of students passed through her classroom, almost three generations from that quiet first morning, not so long ago, when My Mom stood in front of a classroom and said "Hi, my name is Mrs. Cruz."

She spent almost the entire run of her teaching career in junior high, primarily eighth grade. She told Me it was because those were the most difficult years, the transition period between child and young adult. It is no coincidence that that was where My school years went from veiled criticism to open confrontation, Me giving more than I got. She recognized that I was dealing with a vacuum, a limbo where no teacher made any real effort to reach out to Me and offer Me guidance. She made filling that vacuum her life's work.

Most of those 34 years, My Mom went to school every day, battling through pain, illness and just plain exhaustion to be a daily influence on her students. She isn't the only teacher to do that, but We don't cherish that enough. Even with a severely damaged elbow--destroyed, in fact--she made it to school barely 10 days after the incident and opened the school year. The day the incident happened, some 40 students walked two miles to the hospital, just to see her. The nurse there told Me she'd never seen anything like it in her almost 40 years of nursing.

This morning I called My Mom and told her I was proud of her and that her students were lucky to have her as a teacher. That's not Me, or at least, that's not the old Me. The old Me, the raging child in eighth grade, was terrified of having His Mom as His Teacher. It took Me years to understand that I already had her as My Teacher. And that I shared her with an ever-larger community.

My Mom's retired now, planning to do some tutoring in English to stay involved in teaching. Day by day, in a classroom I never saw, My Mom wove a tapestry of affection, caring and enthusiasm for Life. Every day was barely significant to many of those involved, but every day was another carefully-placed stitch, one whose end result was often not seen until years later. Because she cared for each school day, she crafted a rewarding career.

Yes, My Mom is a Teacher. Would that I learned as well as she teaches.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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