I fumbled my way through my parent's attic. Stacked all around me were several sealed boxes. I sat down on the floor and rummaged through them, curious about their contents and the memories they’d stir.
Neatly tucked in the corner of one box was a small envelope with my name on it. I opened it and discovered it contained every one of my school report cards from kindergarten through my senior year. One of the report cards in particular caught my attention. My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Collins, wrote, “Progressing nicely. A lovely pupil. Talks too much.” What? Me? The inside of the card also provided a snapshot of my academic progress as well as my height and weight. The back of the card contained Mother’s signature, along with Mrs. Collins’ signature promoting me to the third grade.
As I recall, Mrs. Collins was a hunchbacked woman who always wore a rather drab purple or blue dress. I was convinced that she had eyes in the back of her head, eyes that she concealed behind the tight bun on her head. Rumor had it that she even had a glass eye. Her face bore a scowl that reminded me of the scary lady on the box of Old Maid cards
Mrs. Collins was a firm disciplinarian who was sometimes overzealous. If you acted out in her classroom, she thought nothing of rapping one of us across the hands with her short wooden ruler. I vividly remembered her pulling a little boy who sat at the desk in front of me by the ear all the way up to her desk. When he returned, his ear was (in my mind) a deep maroon color and swollen twice its normal size.
One day Mrs. Collins called me up to her desk instructing me to bring my new Husky pencil with me. I knew by the tone of her voice that I was in trouble. I walked to her desk; she snatched my pencil out of my hand saying, “You’re erasing too hard and erased a hole in your paper. I’ll have none of that!” She then cut off the eraser with her large black-handled scissors—right in front of me! You can bet that I never EVER erased another hole in my paper.
During the spring semester, I had a tonsillectomy. Much to my surprise, the day after the surgery Mrs. Collins came to my house bringing me my favorite book along with a get-well greeting card my fellow second graders had signed. “Get well soon!” she said after sharing a cup of coffee with Mother. “I miss having you in class.”
At that moment, I realized Mrs. Collins wasn’t a glass-eyed, hunchbacked monster. Rather, she was a stern woman with a caring heart. Her teaching methods and sternness made a huge difference in my young life. Looking back, my experiences with Mrs. Collins were the seeds of what would one day become my life’s work, a career as a classroom teacher.