Hardly recognize this young lady anymore. In fact, when I started looking for my senior photo for this post, I was startled peering into the face of a much younger version of myself. This young woman is a mere shadow of the fifty seven year old variety that I regularly avoid in my mirror. This young woman was cocky and afraid. She was crazy silly but carried some pretty serious secrets. She had a bumpy but not terrible home life. In her mind, she imagined what her ideal life would be like and the determination to make it happen coursed through her veins. She dabbled in a variety of wanna be talents. She hung out with gymnasts but was too afraid to do a back bend. She loved music and lied about playing the piano to a lady she babysat for. This young lady was a terrible student and really found very little to stand tall about. Even when she earned second place for dance at Ursuline Academy's Annual Talent Show, her mother quickly let her know that the dress that she accepted her little award in, was pitifully too short. And I'm pretty sure she was right.
Yes, Jack of All Talents, but master of none was my claim to fame.
Until one day, in my junior year of high school, I arrived to my English/Literature class early. Very odd for this school phobic child. Perhaps my lunch companions were still in the bathroom. Maybe my English Class Bud was absent. Who knows? But there I was, in English Class III, bustling around, straightening desks because of my inability to sit still and after all, they did need it, right?
Who should invade my solitary time in the empty classroom, but it's Ruler, The indomitable Sister Vivienne. Scary, hard and sober, she could stop a bear from attacking. She was on to me and all my shenanigans. She could spot a class clown at fifty paces. Yep. She was scary to me. Most of the old nuns, I could sweet talk, work my charm or allow them to be driven crazy by my silliness, but there was no messing with Ol' Sr. Vivienne. She was a golden black woman from Jamaica. I never thought about it then, but later I wondered what her story was. How did she become an Ursuline Nun? How did she get to America? Being too full of my teenage self, I crossed my T's and dotted my I's in her room and thought little else other than just making it through the semester.
I loved English Class. I loved the reading assignments. I loved vocabulary. REALLY loved it. Abnormally loved it. I even did those little quizzes in the Reader's Digest each month. A Word Monger was I. So when I completed the assignment, 'My Life Philosophy', I quickly drew a visual for it, plopped it in a folder and turned it when while others were just starting the assignment.
It was that day, when Sister Vivienne approached me. She crossed her arms, placing her hands up those cavernous Nun Sleeves, looked down her nose over her glasses and stared me right in the eye and said, 'Miss Murphy, I have something to talk to you about'. I went cold but resumed my chair straightening. Serious Teachers are scary enough, but a even more serious then usual Sister Vivienne, well. That was just too much. I avoided her gaze bustling around and promised my self I would laugh my way out of trouble. She informed me of a nationwide essay contest of high school students. She informed me that she wanted to submit my essay on Life Philosophies to the contest. She told me that I had talent. She told me not to blow it. She told me that she knew I liked to clown around my way out of trouble, but that she was deadly serious about this opportunity for me to go forward in writing.
I told her a flat out no. No way. No way would I enter any contest. What would my friends say? Would I be labled a kiss up? No way would I do something so obviously school like? People would talk.....She shook her head, walked to her desk and said that terrible thing, 'Do it for me.' Ha! Why would I do ANY thing for a teacher? She only sealed the deal. The class started to fill up for the period and the essay was never mentioned again.
But it was never far from my heart.
In all my inadequacies, one thought always stayed in my mind, "Sister Vivienne told me my Junior Year of High School that I could write. Despite my disdain for teachers, this statement I believed. For years, it has buoyed me in the pursuit of developing the passion that I so thank God for.
Teachers. Mostly a thankless job with such overwhelming responsibilities. I view teachers now in near God like status. I appreciate teachers on almost every level.
Thank a teacher today for what she is doing for you, your children, your family, our society...