A Tale Of Three Teachers (Or, A Tribute to Vivian Fairnot)
Ms. H. did not like me. It was obvious.
I annoyed her.
My parents told me it was a “personality conflict”.
But when you are 8 it doesn’t really matter why your teacher dislikes you.
You just know that they do – and you shrivel a little – or a lot – inside.
Ms. M. was way less subtle about her disdain.
I not only annoyed her, she actively loathed me.
And it wasn’t in my imagination.
The last day of 4th grade she told me that I was the dumbest kid she had ever taught and that she was glad the year was over.
It didn’t help that she “told” me that at a loud volume in front of my class as the rest of the school was filing in for the final assembly.
I remember those two teachers vividly.
How much they disliked me.
How worthless they made me feel.
But then you had Mrs. Vivian Fairnot.
She gets her full name in this post because she deserves it.
We switched schools the year I went into 5th grade.
And she was my teacher.
What a difference she made in my life!
She liked me.
Enjoyed being my teacher.
Told me so.
And backed her words with actions.
She gave me responsibility.
Listened to my stories.
Laughed at my jokes.
Believed in me.
And basically loved me just as I was.
I didn’t change much at all between 4th and 5th grade.
But I became a different person because of my 5th grade year.
My whole outlook changed because of one teacher.
She wasn’t perfect.
But she loved well.
And for that I will always be grateful.
All three of those teachers influenced who I am today.
How I teach.
What I believe about children.
And why I do things the way I do.
I tell them the truth.
If I believe they can do better, I tell them.
If I believe they gave it their all, I tell them.
But either way, I tell them every day that I love them.
That I am glad they are my kids.
That I am happy God gave them to me.
I tell them to do their work independently – and sometimes to redo their work – because they are smarter than they think they are.
And I tell them to be respectful because I believe they have to ability to do so.
I tell them to love each other because God loves them and I love them.
And I tell them that they can do ALL things through Christ. Even math. Even loving each other. Even the things that feel impossible when you are 8, 9 and 10.
I tell them to ask for help when they need it.
But to push themselves to do better, too.
All of these things I learned from Mrs. Fairnot.
As well as other amazing teachers through the years.
But she stands out as the teacher who made the turning point happen for me.
She literally changed my life.
I never got a chance to thank her in person here on earth.
I found out that God called her home this week.
It makes me grateful once again for heaven.
Because one of the things I plan to do when I get there is to find her and thank her.
I don’t care if you are a teacher, a parent or simply a person who knows a child.
Please, please watch what you say to them.
And how you treat them.
The things you say and do speak volumes to them.
As well as what you don’t say and don’t do.
They may still hear your voice in their head 40 years after the fact.
One final thought – all three of those teachers taught in Christian schools.
All three claimed to know Christ.
But only one showed Him to me through her actions.
Do the kids in your world see Jesus in you?
Do they know He loves them because you do?
Oh, how I hope so!
Because Jesus loved the kids.
Made time and space for them.
And warned the grown-ups – US – to not give them any reason to stumble.
May you be a blessing in the life of a child today!
And Mrs. Fairnot, thank you.
You always said, “Your walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”
Your walk talked volumes into my life – and therefore into the lives of hundreds of children.
Well done, Teacher, well done.