My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Wooley, stood about 4 feet tall with tight gray curls and a look that could wither you where you sat. She could also make you feel like a million bucks. I guess those twin skills were honed over years in the classroom and I was lucky enough to have her the year before she retired.
Mrs. Wooley saw something in me and nurtured it. Looking back, I think she gave that gift to each of us, we just thought we were special. We were not an easy class. My little school in a blue collar neighborhood was overcrowded and had received an additional influx of children from Cambodia that year.
It was so hard not to feel sorry for these traumatized, displaced children who were just that, children. They may not have known English yet but Mrs. Wooley knew how to pair up these kids with other students to help them learn and to bring them into the fold.
School was our safe place. We didn’t understand or care about world politics and most of us had our own challenges at home. None of that mattered. Mrs. Wooley was extremely clear about her high expectations for us. There were no excuses. She helped shape each of us to be just a little bit better than we thought we could be.
I wish every child could have Mrs. Wooley for 4th grade. And I would love to be able to share a meal, as an adult, with her. I’m sure my memories of that time are quite different than her’s would be.
She was a great teacher, but more than any one particular thing she said or did, I remember how she made me feel… proud, safe, and smart.
That’s a good reminder, to pay attention to how you are making people feel and let that love and support shine through.