Another (Good) Thing About High School

Hot on the heels of Monday's post about how much I hated high school, a reminder that it wasn't all bad was staring me right in the face today -  literally.

I was at swim lessons with the boys.  Knox and Slim were fooling around changing in the boys' bathroom, and Lil' C was throwing a tantrum because he had only put a pair of shorts in the swim bag to change into and had forgotten his shirt and underwear (I know, I'm a mean mom for making my children be responsible for their own clothes).

In a rare moment, I was actually handling his tantrum with a bit of grace and humor.  An older gentleman was staring at me and smiling.  I gathered that he was simply seeing the humor in the situation given that Lil' C was saying the reason he forgot his other clothes was because he was busy pooping right before we left.

But this gentleman kept staring and kept smiling.  I began to think, Alright already, Dude, show's over.  You're beginning to creep me out.

And then he said, "Do we know each other?"

Come to think of it, his smile and kind eyes looked very familiar, so I gave my married name, then as a force of habit, my maiden name.

And that's when he said who he was - my favorite teacher from high school, Mr. B!  I gave him a huge hug right there in the lobby of the swim school.

I mentioned in my last post about how insignificant I felt for four years.  I never felt like anyone really cared what I did, never felt like I had a mentor or anyone who took me under their wing when I so desperately needed it.

But Mr. B was different.  He was sweet and kind and funny and treated everyone the same, which was pretty rare at my school.  He always had something positive and encouraging to say, while at the same time, never allowing silly girl stuff to get in the way of our learning.  Sure, he recognized that we were silly girls most of the time, but that we were growing into smart, talented women.  It seemed like he really enjoyed his job in the least creepy way possible (this was waaay before any of this teacher/student sex scandal stuff).

 I always felt like he really listened to everything I said in class (sociology and government) and challenged me to think more deeply.

Every year, he took a group of students to Chicago (bless his heart - fourteen teenage girls blasting the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing and talking about boys for eight hours - he's saint!).  It was the first time I'd been anywhere, and I learned so much.

At one particular parent/teacher conference, he told my mom things that puffed up a confidence that badly needed puffing.  He said how interesting and thoughtful I was, how good of a writer I was and how he enjoyed hearing my opinions in class.  This was right at the time that everyone was bringing their senior picture proofs to show everyone, and I refused to bring mine.  Of course they were unretouched , and every zit on my face glared out beneath my badly permed, fuzzy hair.  He couldn't understand why I wouldn't bring them because I was such a pretty girl.

In this day and age, as a mom of a girl, I might be concerned if a male teacher said such comments about my daughter, and that's a sad commentary.  As a dad to his own daughter, I'm sure he just felt fatherly love for us.

And as we talked while waiting for our boys (he was there with his grandson) I was reminded of that feeling.

But there was something else.  Every year, a group of his students do a media project with the kindergartners at our sons' school.  As I told him the story of my family, and in particular Joey, a look of recognition dawned on his face, and he asked again for my married name.

He remembered Joey from three years ago and talked specifics about him, what a special little guy he was, and how all the girls loved him.

And that's just Mr. B.  He made me feel good all over again, complimenting my mothering skills and saying what a wonderful teacher I must have been.

As I sat down to write this, a thought wormed its way into my brain.  In passing, I had thought of Joey this morning and hoped I'd see a sign of him today.

In 24 years I have not seen Mr. B, but I saw him today, and he remembered Joey.  He brought me the reminder that even in the bad, there is good. In heartache, there can be happiness.  And that attitude, that way of thinking, was so Joey.  He always saw the fun and happy side of things as did Mr B.

Over the years, especially around teacher appreciation week, I have often thought of writing Mr. B. a letter and thanking him for being a bright spot for me during hard times. As a teacher, I always appreciated heartfelt letters more than gifts.

I think I will write that letter before it is too late.  I think that's another thing Joey wanted to tell me today.

Have you had a favorite teacher or mentor who inspired you or helped you through a tough time?
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