When You’re Nine

When you’re nine,

You know very little about the world that awaits you.

When you’re nine,

You come to school expecting fun, games, friends, and learning.

When you’re nine,

You don’t expect your teacher to have such strict rules, and to make you feel uneasy and sometimes sick to your stomach.

When you’re nine,

You don’t know that those rules were the high expectations that helped you earn respect from others and helped you negotiate some sticky situations many years later.

When you’re nine,

You don’t know that the reason you didn’t cause trouble in line, or cause her to turn back and scold you was because you now knew how to make good choices.

When you’re nine,

You don’t realize that she never had to turn her head with those oversized, dangly earrings because she trusted you to act with integrity with the others you walked with.

When you’re nine,

You don’t realize that the fact she never wore the same outfit twice and was on the cutting edge of fashion helped model how to have pride in yourself and self-worth.

When you’re nine,

And you are sitting in the corner with the dunce cap on during Colonial Day for rolling your eyes during an activity, and you are thinking you’ll soon need some new underwear as she may let you have it AND call home, you don’t realize that you should be accepting of the passions of others and be thankful that you weren’t learning from a textbook.

When you are nine,

You don’t realize that she never intended to call home at all, and that you learned your lesson by being anxious about it for days.

When you’re nine,

You don’t realize that the ex-registered nurse teacher of yours, who sent you home with pinkeye, and caused you to lose your perfect attendance, did it because she cared for your health and the health of others.

When you’re nine,

You don’t realize that your premature wishes for a new teacher because she was “hard on you” and because you thought she “hated kids” were the wrong way to handle higher expectations.

When you’re nine,

And you are finally free, you don’t realize that 12 years later, the teacher who was so hard on you and hated you, who walked in on your student teaching lesson as principal just to “say hi”, actually had a big genuine smile, and not just a stern look.

When you’re nine,

You don’t realize that the person responsible for giving you your first full-time teaching position after a few agonizing failed attempts at interviewing would be that very same teacher.

When you’re nine,

You don’t realize that when you’re walking your first class of students by the office of your former teacher, now principal, that you STILL pray that she won’t turn around and give you “the look”…and she did.  And that you would be scared just like you were 13 years ago.

When you’re nine,

You don’t realize that this teacher will come to your classroom after you have written up a student for saying the most awful things and throwing a chair to help you reconsider your harsh word choice in the discipline referral and to consider how you managed the situation….and it has changed how you relate to students forever.

When you’re nine,

You have no idea the garbage people would give her until the day she retired because she was a strong, African-American woman in education.

When you’re nine,

You don’t think that you’ll often think fondly of this teacher and how her high expectations shaped you, how she taught you the true meaning of integrity, how she would affect your relationships with your future students, and how she would teach you to hold your head up high with pride and self-worth.

When you’re nine,

You don’t think that this trailblazing teacher would be the one you wanted to make proud for doing what is right for your own kids.

When you’re nine,

You don’t think that you would never get a chance to say a simple “thank you” for all that she had done for you, for trusting you, for giving you a chance, and for helping you to affect classes of your own kids for years to come.

When you’re nine,

You just don’t realize the power that a teacher actually has…and that is the best lesson you will ever learn.

Thank you, Mrs. Holder.  May you rest in peace.

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