As teacher appreciation week brought comments to Facebook last week, I did a trip down memory lane. To tell the truth, I usually felt appreciated as a teacher by both students and parents, even when they were complaining about my strict standards. One specific incident came to my mind.
We will call her Jane. Every classroom has a few, though they may be boys named John. They sit in their seats, do as they are told, finish their work. Usually they have the answer to the teacher’s question, but they don’t signal with wild hand-waving, nor do they hover around the teacher’s desk seeking attention. In fact, if the teacher is not careful, in the midst of the super student extroverts and the problem causing rascals, she can easily forget to pay any attention to the fact that Jane, or John, is present.
We were toward the end of the second-grade year, and my students had become good readers. Finished with our required material, we had a lesson one day on all the things one could learn from reading a can label to emphasize the importance of this skill they had mastered. Together they made a long list of ingredients, health information, manufacturer, etc. Finally, I told them they had left out something. Nobody had mentioned the brand on the label. I went on to tell them that usually the brand wasn’t all that important, but if I was buying English peas, I only wanted the can with the Le Sueur label.
The next morning, as the class followed procedure by reading from their current books while I checked attendance, took the lunch count, and finished busywork, I spotted a silver can ineffectively hidden behind Jane’s book. Seeing it ahead of time helped me treat the gift with proper gratitude instead of getting tickled as she brought her present when I asked them to line up to bring me notes from home or tell me anything that was important.
At the end of the year, her mother sent me another gift of counted cross stitch that still brings happiness on the shelf in my office. The English peas are long gone, but the memory of a thoughtful little girl, not named Jane, lingers.