“It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are.”
— E.E. Cummings
Not long ago, a group of us old friends sat around talking about our teachers from our earliest years in school. It suddenly occurred to me that those teachers were surely younger than we are now. Somehow, they all seemed very old to us.
They surely lived within the walls of the school for all time, and they were nothing like us ordinary folks. They were somehow both our heroes and our adversarial leaders, striking a mixture of fear and awe in our young hearts.
We all recalled that the style of our school teachers seemed to be very similar — the clothing very plain and simple, hair often sensibly short and graying, the touch often very much all business with a dose of the somewhat stern sprinkled in. With a room filled to the rafters with a bunch of rowdy kids squirming endlessly, those elementary school teachers needed to command attention.
One day in first grade that has stayed with me all these years changed my impression on my totally unflappable, remarkably kind teacher. Mrs. Kittle was easy-going and organized, a first-grade teacher who had plenty of experience with high-energy 6-year-old students. We knew the rules within her classroom and, for the most part, each day was unremarkable because of it.
That is, until one chilly autumn day when the world shifted off its axis and we found out our fearless leader was not always so fearless after all. We were busy, those big, fat pencils in hand, seated at our school desks. Mrs. Kittle was at the chalkboard, quietly listing short words for us to practice.
Out of nowhere, we heard a scream. A shriek surrounded us all, ear-piercing in its intensity. Shockingly, it was coming from the always unflappable Mrs. Kittle.
She jumped from the floor to the chair in a split second, not sitting on the chair, but standing on it. The scream continued. Mrs. Kittle then somehow leapt from the chair to the top of her desk, her shoes making a clatter on the wooden desktop. What in the world was going on?
Two of the students in the front of the classroom made a beeline for something, knocking the tin wastebasket over in the process. By this time, most of us were screaming right along with our teacher, though the majority of us had no idea why.
“Mouse! Mouse!” Mrs. Kittle managed to utter. After a flurry of feet chased the unwelcome critter, the episode ended as quickly as it all had begun, with the mouse scurrying out the door. Mrs. Kittle climbed down off the ledge to which she had escaped. Most of us rushed to her side as she slumped into her chair, gathering her wits about her.
I was so incredibly proud of my teacher for reacting exactly as a human being when invaded by a horrifying house mouse. We took turns patting her hands, watching the color return to her rosy cheeks. One gentlemanly little fellow promised our sweet teacher that the mouse would never, ever come back.
Mrs. Kittle took a deep breath, sent us back to our seats, and picked up the chalk. She clearly wanted us all to forget it ever happened. It was that day I decided I wanted to be a teacher just like Mrs. Kittle. I would have to work around my other career plans, like astronaut and foreign-land missionary, but it was definitely going to be added to my list.
I was not about to miss out on having a whole room filled with adoring children who would one day save me from the noisy, dizzying nightmare of a horrifying mouse.
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