The unsung deeds of teachers

Given that I"m a writer and a language teacher, many people might well be surprised to know that I got mostly Cs in elementary school. I was not considered a good student. I was often accused of not paying attention because I doodled instead of facing the blackboard. 

Creative Commons image by Latisha of

Creative Commons image by Latisha of

I couldn't see the blackboard and the fuzziness of the open air was very boring. I often "took notes" with my doodles. Before I could write, I drew diagrams of things the teacher talked about. My second-grade teacher recalls coming over to scold me for not paying attention during his lecture on the solar system, only to find that my doodle was actually a reasonably good diagram of the planets. 

To his credit, I vaguely remember his lectures on the planets, whereas I remember little else from my elementary school years. But most teachers did not have the patience to observe first and scold later, as he did. So mostly I was a very poor student. 

Because I had a physical disability, I had an IEP and when I was in the sixth grade someone put "typing" on my IEP because my handwriting was still atrocious. I still can't make out handwriting to this day with my eyesight. And that was how a special education teacher named Irene Froyd was assigned to teach me to type. 

We had an hour a week in an airless room in the basement of the elementary school with an electric typewriter. I remember hating those lessons. The room was stuffy and dim and the work was grueling. But I also remember going to them dutifully and without complaint. I knew in some deep part of me that it was necessary. . 

Still I was reportedly very difficult. I was stubborn and contrary and I didn't want to type difficult things. I gave the teacher grief. We agreed in September that I would type The Night Before Christmas as a holiday present for my mother, because it has so many semi-colons and plenty of difficult letters in it.

Okay, I remember agreeing to that, but I don't know for sure how much argument there was beforehand.

Creative Commons image by Jay Woodworth

Creative Commons image by Jay Woodworth

I did try. I remember sitting there sweating, picking out each letter, week after week in the dim, gray, overheated room. And I remember my teacher's endless patience. She was not terribly inspiring (how could she be with the task of teaching typing?), only kind and gentle and endlessly patient. 

My typing of The Night Before Christmas was not finished until Easter. But it was finished. 

And I knew how to type. I started typing my assignments for school the very next year. And an amazing thing happened.

I became a straight-A student. By the time I was in high school I was two years ahead in math and English. My GPA and test scores won me full-ride scholarship offers from several universities. 

Was Mrs. Froyd the only one? Probably not. I don't remember much of my teachers from middle school but childhood memory is notoriously unfair. Some were probably very good and they no doubt helped in this transformation. But when I see young children struggling so much in elementary school I often think of that stuffy gray room and the endless patience of the teacher who gave my fingers wings.