Wanting to reclaim some good stuff from the past, I was trying to remember if there were any “angels” in my life along the way – people who reached out and tried to help or be supportive or at least offer sympathy.
I had one teacher who made a big difference in my life. It was 7th grade – probly the worst year of my life. The bullies were ruling the school and I was dirt under their feet. I was intensely aware of feeling worthless and just wanting to disappear. Every day was agony with no end or hope in sight. One day in Mrs. R’s class they attacked me verbally – jeering, name-calling, insults, mocking, put-downs, and ridicule. I sat there and just pulled into myself like a turtle inside a shell. I didn’t cry – but I felt like I was dying. Mrs. R wisely did not defend me or try to fight them. That would have made it so much worse for me. Anything that smacked of favoritism would have been another strike against me. She was very objective and calmed things down without taking sides.
Not long after that, she asked me to come and talk to her. She didn’t mention the recent attack, but told me about a speech contest coming up that she thought I should enter. She offered to coach me and enter me in the competition against other schools. I don’t know why I accepted the invitation but I did. I certainly did not have the confidence or any experience to make me believe that I could succeed at it. Maybe it was because she was an adult and I was accustomed to comply – or maybe I was so desperate for anything positive and encouraging that I was willing to give it a try.
Anyway, we picked a speech and I began memorizing and practicing. She was patient and kind and firm and coaxed a much better performance out of me than I’d ever have imagined possible. She never asked me a personal question or referred to anything that happened at school. She treated me like an adult and kept everything professional and appropriate. I won a ribbon at the competition. Not a first – but a pretty good accomplishment for my first attempt. But much more valuable to me was the fact that someone saw something in me or in my situation that could be helped by investing time and effort and care.
I remember her with gratitude and fondness and thank God for the fact that she was there at that time when I needed a supportive adult. I don’t think she suspected about the CSA, but it was very obvious that I was being bullied. She did what she could – and it helped. i'm sure she never knew how much she meant to me.
She is one of the inspirations for my being a teacher today.
"That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. . . What will your verse be?" Robin Williams as John Keating in "Dead Poets Society"