Monday, May 11, 2009
Just Because You Leave High School Doesn't Mean Your Teachers are Done
In yet another sign that the years since my graduation from high school continue to quickly fade into the past, I received word last night night that another one of my high school teachers has passed away.
She was 83 years old and had lived a long and happy life, devoting her working life to English and her retirement years to her friends, her family, and what I've heard was an absolutely magnificent garden. I hadn't actually seen her in the two-plus decades since I left school, but I had spoken with her on the telephone a few times over the years and I received word from time that she had made a point of keeping up with what I was doing with my life.
I always felt guilty over the years that we had played some ridiculous pranks on her during our youth - setting her turntable speed to 16 rpm just before she was due to start playing a recording of one of Shakespeare's plays; setting the alarm clock on her filing cabinet to go off in a class later in the day; reversing all of the desks in the room so that she was facing one wall and all of the students were facing the other. We always thought we were being funny, but as time went on I always felt badly that we had tormented her as much as we did.
Another of my teachers from those years - a wonderful lady who is godmother to my oldest child, was like my second mother during my parents' divorce, and has become a very dear friend - was the one who had informed me of Mrs. O's death, and she was the one in whom I confided my guilt over the pranks we had played. The response was not what I had expected; she simply laughed and said that teachers are very forgiving folks who understand that they are teaching kids, and that Mrs. O never held those pranks against me. In fact, she told me that the two of them had had many conversations over the years about the direction my life was taking, about some of the writing I had been doing (historical articles published in an Alabama magazine), and about my marriage and the growth of my new family.
Quite unexpectedly, here was another lesson I learned from these two teachers: that they can be very forgiving, and that interest in their students never ends with the walk across the stage in cap-and-gown, diploma held high.
Guilt? It's gone. Now I'm just smiling...