When school was dismissed for the summer, like the other kids I ran out of the building screeching, hollering, and scattering with them running in a hundred different directions. I always stopped, though, and turned around staring back at the empty school building, a silent yearning filling my heart and soul. I loved my teachers and everything about school. To satisfy my summertime yearning, I corralled (perhaps “lured” is a better word) the neighborhood children into my makeshift classroom on my family’s front porch.
I set up shop, gathering pens, pencils, construction paper, scissors, notebook paper, magazines, books, and a plate of Mother’s chocolate chip cookies. I rang my great grandmother, Ivy’s, teaching bell announcing to the neighborhood that Sara’s Summer School was now in session. The kids that came did so more for Mother’s cookies than for the lesson I’d prepared for the day. No matter. As long as the cookies lasted, I had a captive audience. When they disappeared, my dolls became my eager, successful students who never once gave me a lick of trouble.
So it came as no surprise to anyone that I became a teacher. After obtaining my teaching certificate, Mother gave me my great grandmother’s teaching bell telling me “You’re now the keeper of the bell and, like her, you’re also the keeper of young people’s hearts and soul.” Since I knew little about my great grandmother, Mother also told me about Ivy and her teaching career.
Several of Ivy’s siblings were in poor health, some with sight problems. Their issues were the motivation behind her working at the Kansas State School for the Blind where she first worked as a teaching assistant and later as a teacher. While working at the School for the Blind, Ivy met her husband-to-be, Stanley Morain, a fellow teacher who was legally blind seeing only shadowy figures and outlines of people and things. Stanley and Ivy wed and were among the early settlers of eastern Kansas.
“They had a hardscrabble life that included farming, raising their brood of 15 children, and teaching,” Mother said. “But Ivy always rose to the occasion, frequently putting others first.”
I took Ivy’s teaching bell with me into each school and each classroom where I taught. On difficult teaching days when I just didn’t think I could carry on I imagined her watching over me. I often thought I heard her say “I know it’s hard some days, but you can do this.”
I’d remove Ivy’s teaching bell from the nearby shelf and hold it close to my heart, remembering her hardscrabble life and her caring, tenacious spirit. I persevered, focusing on my childhood love for school and teaching, remembering Mother’s inspirational words: “You’re the keeper of young people’s hearts and souls.”
I’ve since retired but cherish the wealth of wonderful memories I have about my teaching days. I’m grateful for Ivy, for the privilege of following in her footsteps, and for having been the keeper of young people’s hearts and souls.