July 6 Continuing Down Memory Lane

Mrs. Heath, Ritchie, and my mother,Glendora Oldham, having a teacher/student conference, 1958

             First Grade —- hmmm!  Today I am a first grade teacher and have taught kindergarteners and first graders since 1974.  I find humor in many of their antics, frustration in some misbehaviors, and anxiety in their lack of grasping new concepts…until I remember me as a first grader.  Suddenly, my students seem to become normal and almost above average as I recall my own experiences.  I share these experiences with them on occasion, and they seem to take heart that they too, will be okay. 
                There was the day Mrs. Heath warned me that I should not bring my toy rifle back to school….but I did!  She kept it in a locker ALL year before returning it to me at the summer break!  Daily, or so it seemed, she took my tiny plastic matchbox-size-cars and placed them in her desk drawer.  As far as I know, they may still be there.  The notes she wrote home with RED pencil…I placed in the swift-flowing current in the creek just below the school playground so Mother would never see them.  (I checked the other day as I drove past that creek to see if it was still running – but it was barely a trickle – probably too many of my papers dammed it up)  And reading circle – what an impossible task to sit still in those hard wooden chairs.  I remember my legs and hands getting stuck in the rungs as I twisted and turned in various positions to ward off boredom…(okay, so it took all summer in summer reading program for me to learn to read!).  I remember when “Chuck” said something about a worm, and I said, “yick”.  This was after Mrs. Heath had said “Not one more word!”  Somehow, I never really thought I deserved that paddling for saying, “yick”, but it WAS one more word!  And both my boyfriends; Roy Wright and Charles Otto, turned down my marriage proposals – said they were too young. I loved Roy because his name was so close to Roy Rogers, and Charles, because his dad was a veterinarian who took care of the small birds I found when they had a broken wing. 
                I share these memories because I know that there are days I may seem unfair to my own students, perhaps they have had too many “red” marks on their papers, or they are just having a rough day learning something.  I look into their faces and I remember being their ages.  I remember school was hard for me, and that I wanted to “be good” but just had a hard time following through.  Perhaps the most significant thing I remember about being in first grade is that it was then, at the age of seven, I realized that God loved me so much that He sent Jesus to pay for my sin, and that His love was so great for me, He would have done it even if I was the only sinner.  It was then that I knew I loved Him and wanted my life to be led by Him.  It was then that I began to ask Him to show me how to live.  The Bible verse, “ Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right (Proverbs 20:11), became important to me then, and helps me today as I realize the children God places in my care, are also capable of making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. So today, I honor the memory of Mrs. Heath; my First Grade teacher.  She partnered with my parents, and my church, in teaching me the things that would guide me all the days of my life.  I only pray that the children God has placed in my classrooms through the years may have the same experience.

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