Lucky for me I landed in Mrs. Muterspaws class at Ridgeville Christain School. She also promptly taught me what a paddle was and how it was used if you decided to get sassy in the middle of calendar time. But hey…it was the 197O’s so I will cut her some slack on that whole paddle thing. Especially since I recieved a nice meet and greet with every teacher’s paddle every year till oh…about 2nd or 3rd grade. ( I clearly have always had a bit of a “sassy” issue;-)
But see I was the unlucky owner of this thing called a crappy childhood. Now many of us have had one of these.
You know the type… the type that you spend the rest of your life being so fricking thankful to be out of it and far removed. The problem with crappy childhood’s though is that most do not come out of it lucky enough to know how to function on a normal level. Some part of it you always carry with you I suppose. I often say the whole “forgiveness” thing has always been much easier come by than the whole “forgetting” thing, in life. Often one can spend an entire adult life licking their childhood wounds left by those who are supposed to love them most.
I, with my lovely sass (aka…ADHD/dyslexia), drove not only my parents nuts with my inabilitliy to sit still in class, focus and learn but teachers as well. It seemed like every other year I would get a teacher who really seemed to try though. They would make the extra effort to understand that my brain just didn’t allow me to visually see what everyone else in the class could. And that I really needed a different “way”. Mrs. Muterspaw, Mrs. Lapensky (totally spelling this wrong I am sure), Mrs. Reynolds, Mrs. Strong…these woman fought for me and I am forever thankful and probably wouldn’t be able to read and even write this blog without their hard work and equal parts sass to my sass. What has always stuck out to me about these teachers though and there methods of getting through to me was that they often gave me hugs.
Sounds so simple doesn’t it?
When you are a child though stuck in the middle of a storm at home and you come into a classroom where you are in a completely different type of storm the stress can be crushing. I can remember all but shutting down and giving up so many times. My self confidence was so non-existent to speak nothing of self worth or value in the world. I had no one cheering section at home and spent most of my evenings crying over homework and being asked ”why can’t you get it?” and then comparing me to my smart sis or friends. But these woman would teach me to take a deep breath, hug me and tell me to try again. The hug was what kept me going. The need to please them and really try for them was the drive. The thought that these gals actually saw some value in me…enough to cheer me on. The pay off would be the joy I could see in their faces and feel in their hugs everytime a light bulb would go off and I would “get it”.
Now by the time 6th grade rolled around I am sure that the teachers had a bit of a clue just how my home life really was. I am telling you this school was small. Everyone knew everyone and I can tell you that the teachers that had had my sister before me were very often the hardest on me. I suppose they were baffled by how different we were and “why can’t you get it like your sister did” frustration was often written all over their faces if not spoken out loud to me. Children feel this…they see it and know they are letting down the adults staring them down. If you think they don’t feel it and it won’t effect them…change your thinking.
But being the awkward preteen I was Mrs. Muterspaw (who had still kept up with me since I was just down the hall for the 9-10 years in between) saw the need to help me, I suppose. I often wonder if I just stuck to her heart somehow? She started requesting me out of class to come down to her preschool class and help her with the little ones as her “teachers aid” from time to time. Now see when you are the child with the bad grades and inability to focus in class do you know what most teachers do? They force you to miss recess, face walls with your desk, force you to sit for hours “studying” etc… all of these things being the exact opposite of what a child with my issues truly need. I think we all know that now…but then. Not so much. So being asked to leave the class and go and help a teacher was HUGE! Huger than huge. I was needed! I had a value! And I am pretty sure she probably never had a more eager “teachers aid” . I can remember how excited I was to crawl into a sleeping bag in a catepillar costume and emerge as a butterfly…flapping my scarf wings for a class of giggling 2 and 3 year olds.
Then she asked me to start coming to Sunday school every week and helping her with her preschoolers there. Faithfully every Sunday my mother/father would drop me off and I would help her with her class. The following year though we had to move an hour away for my fathers job. I won’t go into all the graphics but it was a nightmare of a year. Truly goes down as one of the worst years of my life. It all ended with my mother finally getting us the heck out of there. We came back to Ridgeville the following year and it was clear I had changed. Smiling came much harder in the beginning and I found myself shy for the first time….well ever. Kids I had known my whole life I just didn’t know how to really talk to. But there was Mrs. Muterspaw. She quickly picked up where she had left off and even added in a few weekend visits for me with her and her family.
What an amazing woman she was…is. (I have no doubt she is still taking some child, somewhere under her wing) I can remember spending one Sunday afternoon helping her dig in her flowerbeds and my knee ended up in a bed full of fire ants. Ouch! She fixed me right up and I can remember that on those Sunday nights all of her children (she had many) would come over for “family dinner”. They would include me in this and I am sure they had no idea that this was my first experience being around a loving family that liked each other enough to actually eat dinner at a table….together! They were always hugging each other and smiling and laughing and all the things I had so little experience with, yet dreamed of.
As an adult now I surely know her family was not perfect…I am sure they have their share of arguments and family dramas that play out in every family. But this woman gave me things I didn’t really realize for years.
- She taught me how to be a nurturer. The joy of taking care of someone else. The gift of giving that hug and taking the time to simply smile at someone else. That making someone else happy is hugely fulfilling.
- She gave me a skill! As a child unable to be “book smart” having a skill set for further down the road in life was huge! She taught me how to teach. Really teach small children. Before I had my children I taught for close to a decade. I loved it…was meant for it. I was always good at it. Mainly because she passed down a skill set to me. God Bless her for that!
- She taught me to mother my own children well before I ever had them.
Now please don’t think I didn’t love my mother…cause I did. But mom was very distracted while I was a kiddo. Life was not easy on her. My guess would be that she didn’t really know what to do with me (actually she had told me that many times). While she made sure we were dressed, fed, sheltered and all of that very important stuff she really was at a loss on how to communicate with me. I was a frustrating child and I can totally understand that she just didn’t have the tool set to “deal”. But she did the best she could, with what she had and what she knew. I loved her anyway. Such as life. But when I had children I knew I would do everything opposite. I had to. I want those “family dinners” on Sunday evenings when the kids are grown and gone! So I have mothered with love, respect and a firm yet gentle hand with my kiddos. They know they have rules but they know they have value and a soft place to fall when life gets rough. I think I must tell them at least once a week that their is nothing they could do in their lifetime that could ever make me not love them. They know I am always good for a hug and a “you can do this” pep talk.
Now the point of this post would be… that a hug really can make the difference in a child’s life. When I see a child that is acting out or just a hot mess I know what they really need. Boundaries, rules, skills, a purpose, a hug basically, all of the above. After years of teaching those things never failed me when I had a “sassy” child in my class. Never ceased to amaze me how badly these kids just wanted to earn a hug and some praise and they would fall right in line.
Thank you to the teachers who took the time to look past the sass and focus on the hug and encouragement….you rock! And you have yet to be forgotten
One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers,
but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.
The curriculum is so much necessary raw material,
but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
PS~ Special thanks to one of my lifetime bff’s….Christi Traster
who just so happens to be the grand daughter of Mrs. Muterspaw (such a lucky girl!).
I love that she was kind enough to sneak me a picture….because this post is so much better
with Mrs.M’s beautiful smile and a child in her arms