Monday, December 04, 2006

A Text Message I Expected But Didn't Want To Get

Dear Darla,
When I first met you, we were both young teachers. You had a new baby, and I was still single and lovin' it. We used to walk from the parking lot to the high school together; you were usually carrying your son in one hand and swinging a large case of Pampers by the handle with your other hand. I carried your books and mine. We had some great conversations.
I always meant to tell you how much I enjoyed your company, but I never got around to it.
Then I was transferred to another building and we didn't see each other for a several years.
When I was assigned to the OTHER middle school, it wasn't my first choice and I wasn't the happiest of campers at first. But when I walked into the gym on that first official day and saw you sitting there, I knew it was going to be all right. Neither of us, it turned out, really wanted to be there at that particular school, but since we had each other, we could make do. You wanted to go back to the high school, and I wanted to go back to the city school, but we were both 'sentenced' to do some time at the little country school. I later fell in love with it, and later still fell out of love with it, and today I wouldn't care if it burned to the ground, but you never did like it much. You were glad when, years later, you were transferred back to the high school.
I always meant to tell you how glad I was that you were there, but I never got around to it.
We had some good times in that middle school, though. By the time my kids were in the seventh grade, we both had some serious experience under our belts. You had a reputation of being extremely strict and scrupulously fair. This did not, of course, sit well with some parents who were not interested in justice but only mercy, and there were some hard times for you. You never lowered your standards so the offspring of the system's political favorites could play ball without first earning the right, and this put you on the poop list for a long time.
I always meant to tell you how much I admired you for your stance, but I never got around to it.
My daughter liked you and your classes very much. She was a hard worker and good grades were important to her. It was also important to her that she like her teachers and they like her. You let her know, not with words exactly, but with your actions and your treatment of her, that you liked her as a student and as a person. She still speaks of you with respect.
My son was a difficult student. He challenged any and all authority, and simply refused to do any assignment he rated "stupid" or "unnecessary." In your class, however, he found challenges that he admired and he almost always did the work you assigned. His respect for most authority figures was nil, until they proved themselves worthy, and apparently you were among the worthy. You gave him a black canvas carrying case for his Nintendo games, and told him your own son had two and didn't need it, and after that he knew you were on his side. Yours was one of the few classes he paid attention in.
I always meant to tell you how much I appreciated your respect for and liking of my children, but I never got around to it.
A lot of parents didn't like you or the way you conducted your class. A lot of parents thought you needed to lighten up, relax your standards, and play ball so their kids could play ball. You chose to maintain high standards and require students to earn their privileges.
I always meant to tell you how much I respected you for not kowtowing to those parents, but I never got around to it.
After you went back to the high school, I didn't see as much of you, but whenever we did meet, it was like old times.
When I heard that you were so ill, I thought about emailing you and telling you some of these things. I really meant to do that, but I was busy and you were in and out of the hospital and the school, and I didn't want your sub reading my personal note, and did I mention how busy I was, and I really meant to do that, but time got away from me and I never did.
Then, at the beginning of this semester, I heard you were back in school, feeling better, and determined to finish out the year. I thought again that I really ought to email you and tell you all these things that had been in my heart all these years, but somehow it just didn't get done.
Then, I heard that the cancer was back, and everyone knew you were too exhausted to fight it any more. I meant to call you and ask you if I could bring you anything, or do something to help, but I waited too long. I waited too long.
I think that often the things we regret the most are the things we didn't do, not the things we did do.
This morning, in the middle of class, my cell phone 'told' me that I had a text message. When we went on break, I looked at it.
I'm so sorry, Darla, that I couldn't find the time to tell you all those things while I still had a chance to do it. I'm sorry. I'm just so incredibly sorry.
Parents, if your child has ever had a good teacher, please be sure to tell them you think so, and thank them. It's never too late, either. . . . until it really is too late.
Darla, you were quirky and funny and totally 'out of the box.' You were fun and funky. You were strict, STRICT, but you were always fair. I really think it was the 'fair' part that so many parents of athletes (smirk) hated so much. You went out of your way with students who weren't always appreciative, and more parents than just me knew it and respected you for it. I only hope some of them told you so.
I wish I had told you so.
Thank you, dear Darla, for being the kind person you were, for being a great educator, for being stubborn and whimsical and funny, and for never backing down, even for the rich people.
You will be missed. I miss you already.
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:09 PM | |


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