I find myself back at Cordova Elementary School several times a year in this job. Most recently, I was there interviewing Sabra Brown about being Teacher of the Year.
Although I’m biased because she was my teacher about 20 years ago, I’m sure no one deserved the title more. I also discovered that no one could have wanted it less.
Ms. Brown told me repeatedly during our time together that her devotion to her students is not unique.
Hopefully she won’t take an apple off of my tree for bad behavior, but I have to disagree.
It takes a special individual to want to be a teacher. I certainly didn’t even though the only career advice I was given in high school was to become an English teacher.
I knew myself too well to seriously entertain that notion. Not everyone has the same good sense.
There are plenty of bad teachers out there. Some are incurably inept. Others get so fed up with bureaucrats trying to “fix” education that they forget why they went into teaching.
A friend told me about a great teacher she knows who was once docked points during an inspection for explaining the word “arid.” Her crime was introducing a little science during story hour.
Never mind that a child had asked for the definition. Apparently it was not the correct time to be curious.
Even kindergarten teachers get told what to do by the folks in Montgomery and Washington.
Ms. Brown wasn’t trained to teach 5-year-olds to read. In my day, she could spend the whole year on letters and sounds, which she loves, and let our first grade teacher build on those fundamentals.
Now she has to rush through the alphabet so they can start reading before they even learn which block on the rug has been assigned to them.
Rather than complaining about what is expected of her and the children, Ms. Brown has found a way to combine what she wants to do with what she has to do.
When I walked into her classroom that afternoon, I noticed Ms. Brown writing something on the board.
The rest of the class was sounding it out while Ms. Brown offered them hints on some of the trickier syllables. One student stood nearby with a blender.
Once they “blended” the sounds into the correct word, the blender whirled in their honor and the game continued.
All too soon it was time for them to go home.
Before they left, they told me that they can now count to 100. They also let me in on an inside joke that they are 87 days smarter and Ms. Brown is 87 days older than when school started.
I couldn’t help but smile as they all shook their heads and said, “Poor Ms. Brown.”
She had another teacher walk them to the pick-up area so she could answer some questions for me.
As they filed out of the classroom, she kissed each of them on the head and told them that she loved them, to be safe over the weekend, to not forget some part of their homework and little things like that.
I love my kid with all my heart. I would care for any others entrusted to me to the best of my ability, but I’m not sure I could actually love them like Ms. Brown does.
Although we couldn’t and didn’t discuss the specifics of any student, she told me that she once had a child who had to be watched very carefully at school. I gathered that there was someone in the little girl’s life who had threatened to take her.
Ms. Brown thought about what to do if the worst were to occur and decided that she would go with her. I have no doubt that she would have too.
I also learned that she has taught many special needs children. One mother later commented that it meant so much to her when Ms. Brown insisted that her son be in her room.
We talked for more than an hour that afternoon.
I was just about to walk out the door when she told me to have a good weekend.
I stopped and smiled. I was 5 years old again and back in the classroom that was once my window to the world without letting me see how cruel and scary it can be.
The day was an adventure, my hard work was going to earn me a smiley face sticker and I still had the bestest teacher in the whole wide world.