My maternal grandmother was a one-time teacher, and a frugal saver of papers. She bound them together between hardback covers from discarded books using metal rings inserted through punched holes to secure them. Several years of Sunday school papers were well preserved in such a book recently discovered among my parents’ belongings. If you’ve been following my blog, she’s the adventurous one who – as a single 25-year old teacher – took a year off and set out for California in the summer of 1913. A fascinating adventure. Click here to read the beginning of that story. https://elainemcallister.com/grandmas-story/
The Graded Press of New York published these “Primary Stories” on a quarterly basis. The glossy 6-page handouts included stories, Bible verses, activities, illustrations or photos, and fill-in-the-blank questions for primary Sunday school students. Copyright, 1928. https://www.onthisday.com/events/date/1928
I read a few of the stories, poems, and Bible verses, and I checked out the illustrations, graphics, and photographs – one was of George Washington, and others were silhouettes from books of that era.
One fill-in-the-blank page immediately caught my eye. My dad had written his name (Robert Arden York), age (7), and grade in school (3rd) in youthful penmanship. What a treasure!
Within this primitive compilation was another page which I decided to frame. “A Song About Teachers” (a poem) is surrounded by a border of grapes, vines, and leaves, haphazardly colored by my dad – that 7-year old. Priceless!
My dad was a lefty, and I find it humorous that he evidently didn’t have a purple color (since when are grapes blue?) nor did he like to color within the lines. A rebel? Or just a 7-year old boy being a 7-year old boy? Who knows, but it’s no less precious to his daughter, now, 90 years later.
And, I love this poem.
I love it because he colored it. His hands touched it, and to have it now in my hands brings him close in a way only a fatherless-daughter can understand! Do we ever stop missing our parents, once we have them no longer? No!
But I also love it because his mother – my grandmother – had been a teacher in her younger years, and because his granddaughter – my daughter – is now a teacher about to embark on yet another year in the classroom.
However, it’s the writer in me who loves this poem for what it says. Listen to the unnamed writer’s powerful description – in the language of that era – of the work of a teacher:
They show us marks called letters,
Which we can change to words,
They mean all kinds of loveliness,
Like people, flowers and birds.
We put those marks together,
And make a prayer to-day.
An earnest prayer, for teachers dear:
“God bless them all,” we say.
Ahhhh……I love it! Changing ‘marks called letters’ into words! What a unique way to explain the art of writing even at it’s most elementary level. It’s what I do every day as a writer. It’s what I love. Truly an art form that takes place in classrooms around the world every day thanks to teachers! https://www.pta.org/home/events/PTA-Teacher-Appreciation-Week
A more modern bit of prose which is circulating on social media (author unknown) offers suggestions on how to pray for teachers. Check it out (and yes, I realize not all teachers are female – just change the pronoun if the teacher in your life is a guy):
Pray for the teacher as she…
…looks at her summer to-do list; she might not have had a vacation or success in taking care of needs.
…needs to be refreshed and healthy; her summer may have included loss, grief, disappointment, or trial.
…has concerns about how her relationships will change with the school year starting; daycare, marriage, family, needy children.
…gets her classroom ready; she may have to move rooms, may not have supplies yet, or might have issues to address.
…attends staff development and meetings; she may have requirements to meet or assignments to finish.
…reconnects with fellow staff and faculty; some working relationships might be challenging.
…sorts through curriculum; a change in grade level, publisher, or requirements can be difficult.
…begins to do her planning; teachers have so much to pack in and the unexpected will enter in.
…receives information about her students; she needs openness, insight, wisdom, and compassion.
…meets a whole new group of parents; parent relationships are crucial to the success of students and teachers.
Every teacher is a real person who goes to the grocery store, does laundry, has dinner with friends, cries, hurts, and worries. She needs the Kleenix and the hand sanitizer, but most of all she needs your prayers.
What a great reminder for us! I echo the poet’s prayer for teachers as they return to classrooms soon. My prayer is that they will have all they need to be successful in teaching the art of changing marks called letters into words!
In the words of that unknown poet: God bless them all!