“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” ~Saint Francis de Sales
“That’s not a tree! That’s a lollipop!”
So, at six-years-old, after a good cry from behind the book I had propped up in front of me, I woke up and started drawing trees the right way.
Mrs. S. never noticed my intense obsession with drawing trees that she’d set in motion. If she did, I never knew. More importantly, I didn’t care.I became acutely aware of her presence in my aisle and hid anything I was working on from her critical eyes.
A year later I was sitting on the side of the hill outside of the classroom of the same school with another teacher – an art teacher.
I remember her voice and her face. Mostly I recall how peaceful I felt. She talked about sunlight and shadows letting us take our time uncovering the mysteries that were her reality.
This teacher had helped me fall in love with trees and art in general.
She was a gentle soul and if it’s not obvious to you, she made a very strong impression on me.
So, here are my questions:
Back to my first grade teacher.
If Mrs. S. was pivotal in the discovery of one of my latent talents, was there a better way for her to have served me?
And was that the only lesson Mrs. S. gave me?
I think it’s a shame that my relationship with her was damaged by this one incident. She might have been a very nice woman having a bad day. But she watched me shrink under the weight of her words. She was right there as my best friend wrapped her arms around my quivering shoulders and snapped at her, saying, “That was mean!”
When we choose anything but gentleness during a teaching moment, the message will be delivered, but that’s not all that will be shared.
We choose how we will be received and remembered.
I wish that Mrs. S. had turned around, squatted next to me and said something like, “Betsy, I’m sorry for my tone of voice. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I want you to see what I see in you. I see a budding artist. I just wanted you to know that I think you can do so much better and I’d like you to try harder.”
This morning I feel sorry for the loss of what could have been, grateful for her part in my life, and hopeful that she knows that I forgive her.
Her heart was in the right place I think.
After all, she was a teacher.
I hope to remember to choose gentleness in all of my teaching moments and to seek forgiveness whenever I forget…
…because I’m a teacher, too, whether I know it or not.