Thursday, June 4, 2009

Out Of The Blue...

An anonymous message comes, a tiny little reminder of support and answers I sometimes seek but don't always acknowledge.

Thirty-five years ago, I was staring at a lonely life of a student who's desk was not allowed in the classroom. Each day I'd come to school as a 1st through 3rd grader to find my desk in the hallway. The teachers were often cruel, and mean spoken. They told my parents often how horrible I was as a child, that I was problematic, inattentive, outspoken, could not sit still, and therefore, not allowed in the classroom setting except for movies, nap time, and phy-ed.

If I asked a question, I was ignored. If I needed help, I was told to figure it out.

My 3rd grade teacher who hated me, made me lead character, the donkey, in a play. While the play was being put on the entire elementary school jeered at me. I could hear the names most often associated with donkey being called out. The teacher did nothing but sit there.

That changed when I started 4th grade.

That teacher had a gift. He had the gift of caring about his students, wanting to help them, and my desk,

was in the classroom.

He put us all on gigantic, white sheets with a grid; our names along the side, the coursework across the top. The entire compendium of work to be completed to finish 4th grade was on the sheets. Those who needed his help could get it, those who did not were left alone during that time. He'd answer questions on anything at any time. His time was ours.

He tended to us as a teacher and as a mentor as well. His well-known Friday night hot dog and burger fests with his wife, were not to be missed. Segregating the boy's night from the girl's night, he was able to spend better time with each group in a non-teacher setting.

I finished math and science around December.

He bought me my first chemistry set, and gave me swabs to scrub salamander's backs to peer under a microscope. I took the chemistry set and started seeing what I could put into it and what reactions happened. Little did I know I was learning acid-base, redox, and precipitate reactions.

The salamander scales got put into petri dishes and looked at under the 'scope. Then he encouraged my parents to buy me my own microscope and slide set. My parents, with his advice, went further and bought me additional blank slides, books on how to use it, and stains.

He told my parents, I was not a bad child but bored and too smart to sit still. He told the future teachers to keep me engaged in more depth and tried to help me through my 5th and 6th grade years so that this child, me, would never again have to feel the loneliness and isolation of being ostracized not only by my teachers, but by my peers.

In a way, he probably saved my life. Unfortunately, his own was not so well.

Thirty four years passed.

The last week of my first semester at school was a doozy. For reasons I cannot and will not disclose here, it was akin to being kicked in the gut. People I thought I could trust, people whom I thought were looking out for me and helping me, were undermining my every move.

For the past three weeks, I've wondered what in the heck am I thinking. Do I have it in me?!

Last night, that same teacher through one of his children, answered my question.

Of course, I do. I did not start this to quit, I did not study like mad last semester for nothing. I can't quit, I can't give up.

He never did, and neither shall I.


tkmiech said...

Hello. Thank you for your kind words about my Dad. My brother brought your blog to my mom's attention, who told me about it. It really means a lot to us to know that he is still remembered. I also remember the friday night hot dog parties, which were great fun. My mom remembers most of the children who were in his classes, and she would like to know who you are if you are comfortable in letting us know. If not, we do understand. Thank you once again.

A Doc 2 Be said...

If you will write to me at my email address, I will send it to you:

I am not sure she would remember me. My brother played basketball for Duluth East and the only night your dad was ever able to have girls' night, I could not attend. He then scheduled a lunch for me with your mom, and served hot dogs.

Little did I know, how sick he was at that point; that there would never be another girls' night.

For what it is worth, there were a lot of us in the early '80s who were students at UMD that talked about having a Ranthum reunion party to honor him. One night in particular, a bunch of us were headed skiing to Telemark and on the way there, all of our eyes were glistening when we spoke of what he did for us as kids, the impact he had on our lives.

There is no way I could forget him. He is one of my greatest heroes.