My Best Christmas Gifts Ever
by Linda Schrock Taylor: Literacy's
My mother has
long been of the opinion that occupations like that of teaching
can be the least rewarding because of the lack of closure;
because "never knowing how it ends" is too often part
and parcel of such professions. I completely agree with her because
we rarely, basically never, see the outcome of our
A real estate
agent sells a house and closes the deal. A bookkeeper can find peace
when the books balance. A mechanic can pat himself on the back when
a formerly useless piece of machinery is brought back from the dead
and made useful again. A book writer can check on the number of
copies sold. A barber or beautician can see results, and get instant
feedback. But many of us just have to wonder and worry if we really
did enough; if we accomplished all that could have been accomplished.
I have taught
for more than 40 years but still could not explain what more than
a handful of my special education students actually learned from
me and/or have ended up doing with their lives. I wonder – and I
would love to know – but opportunities to discover such information
only rarely appear. I therefore was surprised last summer when a
very welcome note appeared on my Facebook page asking, "Are you
the Linda Schrock who was my teacher at the Colorado School for
the Deaf back in the early-mid Seventies?" YES I AM! I had not heard
from this student since 1977 and he was one about whom I especially
wondered and worried. What a relief. It was like Santa had arrived
But then December
arrived and I happened to be in a discount store when someone called
out, "Mrs. Taylor!" I turned to see one of my former students
walking towards me. We hugged then I stood back to really look at
him. School had never been easy for this student and I suspected
that his home was not, either. I had taught him in the days before
I learned to use the life-saving Spalding Reading Method but even
without it I tried my very best. I also had set myself a very firm
goal: that even if I could not get all academics taught, I would
at least try to teach personal pride, self confidence, self control,
and hopefully instill a good work ethic.
my once-troubled student wearing a sparkling white dress shirt under
a spotless near-new workman’s jacket. He wore clean new jeans and
his body language was one of confidence and ...self control. His
stance was relaxed. I asked what he was doing these days and he
answered, "I’m still wrenching; working as a mechanic."
I automatically glanced at his hands as I had so often done in school
and blurted out, "Oh! Your hands are beautiful. Your nails
are so clean!" He gave me a bit of a smile as he explained,
"Mrs. Taylor, I now wear gloves when I work." I almost
began to cry but...
There was no
time because, as unbelievable as it seems, another former student
walked up and joined us! What are the odds? Chucky Fuller (the name
has been changed to protect everyone) gave me a huge warm hug. He
was wearing a clean shirt and slacks plus a beautiful blue employee’s
jacket from the local cable company. He wore glasses and was the
picture of a confident working man.
I continue, I need to give you a bit of background on Chucky Fuller.
Even the mention of his name has caused strong, skilled teachers
to shudder. To actually shudder! I feel sure that this boy created
thousands of pure white strands for my mother‘s hair. That was before
he began re-coloring mine when I was hired to replace Mother after
she retired in relief.
was almost impossible to keep in a classroom because of his hyperactivity
and his lack of concern for rules and for those who make rules.
He always "forgot" his glasses in his locker so that he
would have a sure reason to later get out of class. If a teacher
foolishly denied him permission to go get his glasses, there was
hell to pay. Few challenged his request a second time. His demands
were relentless. I suspect that the teachers, as they handed him
the hall pass, were thinking, "Go get the damn glasses! Next
time, maybe you could be so good as to forget them at home."
When one humorless,
rigid, and empty-of-insight teacher tried to win a battle over Chucky
leaving the room so often to go to the bathroom, Chucky simply walked
to the waste basket and relieved himself right in the classroom;
right in front of the teacher. Still the woman did not learn and
next she tried to discipline him by writing on the blackboard, "Must
have lunch 1 day in the classroom". Of course the boy
never showed up so she upped it to 2 days. 5. 20. 30....She continued
this totally ineffective punishment until she had staked a claim
on all of his lunch periods until near the End of Time. Chucky had
lunch as always, right in the cafeteria with his buddies.
Chucky ever really graduate?" was the question on almost everyone’s
lips. Things became so bad, and Chucky was kicked out so often,
that our wise and insightful principal finally decided to only require
(allow?) the boy to be in the building for about 6/7 of each school
day. Oops! Change that to 3/4. Oh, shucks, that didn’t work. Let’s
try 5/8. One-half day ended up being the boy’s basic schedule....with
assignments sent with him so that he could "study" at
home. For the time that he was in the building, Chucky was assigned
mostly to...you guessed it..."Mrs. Taylor’s room." How
lucky could I get?
In truth, however,
I liked the boy and he liked me. His antics made me laugh behind
my hand. I could see that he was quite intelligent and that he understood
the System better than 95% of the adults working in it. He had their
number, but good. I enjoyed watching him as he went about undermining
one silly schooling theory after another. I, at least, could keep
him in the classroom for most of the time and I did lay down the
law that he must NEVER leave without permission. He respected that.
He was not mean; not sullen; not vengeful. Not angry. Not fight-prone.
He was....well, he was just a unique person with unique needs and
Tenacity was his power tool.
He and I kept
two options ready for those times when he could no longer tolerate
the four walls: 1) get the glasses from the locker (He would even
"forget" them in the locker again while he was
out on a bathroom break. Hide my smirk.), and 2) frequent bathroom
trips, both necessary and unnecessary. At least I could count on
him to always be where he said he would be...strolling slowly
to and from his locker, or to and from the bathroom. Not only did
we understand each other when it came to room-leaving, I let him
to set up a repair corner in my classroom. The deal was...while
he tinkered, he had to keep his mouth shut and he had to carefully
listen to what I was teaching. I gladly tolerated the ugly smells
and the awful mess of old, oily motorcycle parts as I hoped that
he would at least learn with his ears.
By the way,
Chucky was only one of two students who ever put their hands on
me during my four decades of teaching. However, he instantly realized
his error when he noticed my fierce eyes and clenched teeth. He
quickly removed his hands. The incident dissolved and we remained
friends because I felt no need to inform the office, and he realized
that I had no-holds-barred self defense on my mind. I was
capable of handling the situation. No harm had been done and much
respect had been solidified.
in front of me stood this infamous Chucky Fuller, looking spiffy
and actually wearing his glasses! I laughed and teased him about
having the glasses on without a reminder from me. I’m sure that
we were both picturing the same old routine as he grinned, saying
"Aw, Mrs. Taylor, I HAVE to wear them. I really can’t see anything
without them." (No surprise to me!)
I quizzed him:
installer and repair man
For over a decade.
Wife and two children. Oldest child is 14. He explained...coolly
and calmly...that he is not very happy with the school district
(his alma mater...hide my smile) and has requested a meeting with
his child’s teacher and the principal. He expected that the meeting
would go fine. (Wouldn’t I like to be a mouse?)
When I walked
away from those two clean, confident, thriving young fellows, I
went where I could cry unseen. Maybe I really had
helped those students. Maybe what I was finally witnessing was...closure!
I just may
have received the two best...and rarest...Christmas
gifts that any teacher can receive.
Schrock Taylor [send
her mail] is a retired special
education teacher; a reading specialist; former homeschooling parent;
and outspoken constitutionalist. She is slowly writing her first
book on remediating reading skills.
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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