“Miss” Beaver always gave the best hugs.
First thing in the morning, after walking to Sallie Z. for first grade, she was there in her classroom finding ways of making puke-colored cinderblock interesting to six-year olds. But mostly, she just always gave great hugs. When I was excited about getting an “E” (for Excellent) on a reading test, she gave me a hug. When I was sad about getting a “P” (for Poor) on a hand writing test, she was still quick to give me a hug and tell me I could do it. (I’m sad to say, Miss Beaver, my handwriting would still likely get a “P,” but I’ll happily take a hug, any time.)
When I fell on the playground, when I was the last one to get picked for kickball (I still find it astonishingly hard to connect with that stupid ball: think Charlie and Lucy with a football), or when I just walked past her in the lunchroom even after I had moved all the way to third grade, Miss Beaver was still there giving out hugs.
Those hugs mattered.
They made the ecstasy of passing a math test real by making it a shared event. They cushioned the blow of bombing those spelling tests that somehow made me dread every single Friday. A six-year old shouldn’t have to dread Friday, but Miss Beaver made it bearable.
She is still my teacher today. Most of what I know about interacting with children, about encouraging them when they fall or fail, about jumping up and down with them when they succeed, about reaching out to them arms and heart wide open to celebrate this wonderful existence, I learned from watching her teach me and my friends in her class. Her influence is still felt today, thirty-six years later.
You can’t test for influence. No score on a standardized test reveals the effectiveness of a teacher like her. And if we as a country finally decided to actually support public education on a level commensurable to it’s importance, we would have to multiply our teachers’ salaries by a factor of about a hundred.
Thank you to all my teachers: past, present, and future. Thank you “times infinity” to those who have and are now teaching my kids. We’ll never be able to repay you for your service to our kids and our country, but we can, at least, stand with you when others devalue your service for their own political gain. Teaching matters, and anyone who claims otherwise really needs a hug.
Update: Mrs. Ann Beaver Mons passed away on Monday, January 21, 2008 at the age of 61. Requiescat in Pace, and thank you for all the hugs. Love, Rusty.