Teaching Tidbits

With the UK lockdown, parents must teach their children at home—even parents who work every day to survive financially, and/or parents who are ill-equipped to teach. It reminds me of my teaching days.

I taught four-and-five-year-olds using Christian curriculums. Zeke, who started my class at four, wrote and illustrated his own books by the end of the school year. He loved looking up information on bugs and animals and learning about them, then writing his own stories. His parents were flabbergasted by his progress. So was I.

Sean captivated my heart. His eyes were as wide and green as a tropical sea. He crafted each letter with such perfection that they almost looked like printed fonts. His older brother bullied him and his parents were too busy for him, so he always wore a slightly sad countenance that made me want to take him home with me.

Teachers always have at least one hyperactive child in each class. At least—I did. Beau was such a challenge that his dad told me to call him at work when he got out of control so he could come to the school and discipline him. One day we started out with a short Bible story as usual and talked about how to please God. I told the children that God was pleased when they obeyed their parents—and their teachers, but displeased when they disobeyed. Next on the schedule was singing the alphabet song. I used a long wooden yardstick to point to the letters as we sang. Beau was especially wild, even standing up in his desk seat and jumping up and down. I finally got him to sit in the desk so we could start singing—but Beau laughed and shouted and pretended he was in a boat riding waves on a stormy sea. His desk rocked so violently that instead of walking up to the front of the room as usual, I stood by Beau’s desk to grab whatever tipped over first—him or the desk. When I lifted up the yardstick to point to the letters—the end hit the light fixture over Beau’s desk. It shattered over Beau’s head. Fortunately, Beau was unscathed by the incident. But he thought God had thrown the light down on his head because of his bad behavior. I never had to call Beau’s dad again for the rest of the year.

One of my favorite students was Gloria, even though her mind lacked compartments. She would begin writing letters and end up turning them into pictures. She loved animals and was so kind that she came to me screaming and crying one day because fire ants were stinging a caterpillar. I rescued the creature from the murderous ants and Gloria made a nest in her lunch box for it and carried it home with her. At recess, she carried insects around the playground in her hand, chatting to them like best friends. But Gloria could not learn, not even with all the extra time and help I gave her. By the end of the year when the other students read sentences out of their sixth reading book like, “Hoist the Flag and rejoice,” Gloria stumbled over sentences in the first reading book: “The hat is on the cat.” Years later, I found out that both her parents were heavy drug users and had been arrested for possessing and selling drugs—and suddenly the lack of compartments in Gloria’s brain made sense.

Hyperactive Velma ended my teaching career. She was the youngest of several girls and her mother was a basket case after a recent divorce. Mom came home at night, zoned out on tranquilizers and left the girls to fight it out and either kill each other, or survive until they finally went to sleep. Before a doctor put Velma on Ritalin, she would become angry over her school work and threaten to run away from school and back home. She would not just threaten—she would put the plan into action and I would have to catch her and hold her until she calmed down. The school was on a busy highway with sharp curves and no shoulders. Velma could easily have been killed if she escaped—but I could easily have been sentenced to prison for “abusing” her.

Kudos to teachers everywhere including parents.

One former student changed the course of my life and sent me rushing to writing. I’m thankful to her. I hope I left her with something lasting too.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.