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Monday, February 16, 2009

Second Grade

I generally look at the obituaries in the local paper every day. Occasionally there are names that I recognize. A few days ago as I was looking through them I saw the name Stevenson. The first name was Willie. The name sounded familiar. I believed it to be the name of my second grade teacher. I knew for certain that the last name was correct and was fairly certain about the first name. I clicked on the link, read the obituary and sure enough it was her.

As I read the obituary I learned things about her I did not know. Most people probably do not learn much about their second grade teachers. Do we even consider them human like the rest of us? Do they actually have a life outside of a classroom? Do they ever walk down any halls outside of a school building. Well, as I read her obituary I realized that she actually lived a very active life outside the school house. The last time I saw here was some years back in the local Kroger store. I was standing in line behind her. I caught her attention and introduced myself. She acted as though she remembered me, I don't know if she really did. That is the only time I can remember seeing her outside the classroom and halls of Jane Long Elementary. She was very gracious and we spoke for several minutes. She no doubt had thousands of students over her lengthy career.

Her passing caused me to remember several things. I remember her being my teacher but I can't say I remember much about the classroom or who was in the class with me. I do remember that at that time, the lunch cart would be rolled down the hall to each classroom and the students would go out into the hall around the lunch cart, deposit their token, collect our lunch, file back into the classroom and eat at our desk. We would deposit the scraps of food into the designated containers, place the silverware into a designated container, and stack the trays. The lunch ladies would come by a bit later and collect the trash and utensils. I remember recess.

I also remember one day on the way out to recess that I had done something that caused Mrs. Stevenson to take me by both shoulders and give me a good shaking. I don't remember what I did, but I don't doubt that I deserved the shaking. I certainly knew she meant business after that. Of course, it would have done little good to go home and tell my parents that Mrs. Stevenson grabbed me and shook me on the way to the playground today. My parents would not have likely went down to the school room but rather sent me to my room and followed me with an instrument of correction. I grew up when if you got in trouble at school, you got in trouble at home. So I am quite certain I did not share that interesting piece of information with my parents until possibly some years later. No sense in compounding the grief.

I also remember that it was Mrs. Stevenson who wrote on the back of one of my report cards that James seems to have a stumbling block in relation to math. She was right. I found math to be very frustrating. I think I even had difficulty grasping the concept of greater than/lesser than. Somehow I managed to make it through two years of introductory Algebra in High School but at the first opportunity removed math from my curriculum. Only two years of math was required for graduation, so I only took two years of math. My difficulty in the area was obviously a point of grief for her as well. That is probably the sign of a good teacher. I think it is likely that my lack of ability created a degree of despair for her. I finally managed to adequately master the basics, well maybe not master but certainly get by.

It seems like yesterday when I was in Mrs. Stevenson's second grade class. Yet it was, I believe in 70/71. It was 39, almost 40 years ago. That was a long time ago, why does it seem like a few years ago?? By the time I sat in Mrs. Stevenson's classroom she was halfway through her career. She was I guess you might say, a seasoned, experienced teacher. I am now probably over halfway through my ministry. I am effectively where she was at the time. Her passing has been the occasion of reminding me of the brevity of life. I will probably remember Mrs. Stevenson till the end, which will be here before I know it. So, here she is, in her obituary leaving me one last lesson, life is short, live it to the fullest. Thanks Mrs. Stevenson from a long ago second grade student.
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