had been pushed down hard inside you
like a plug ?
Naomi Shihab Nye "Voices"
As teachers and other not-listened-to people all over the planet are finding their voices, I am rejoicing!
It is no big surprise that, as a consultant, the people I love to work with the most are the ones on the front lines, and when I say front lines, I do not mean battle lines. Rather, I mean the place where the needs of the many converge on the one---
the teacher, nurse, social worker, case manager, alcohol and drug rehab counselor---
you get the picture.
Most of us still carry the imprint, for better and worse, of the teachers who touched the early wet clay of us. Now I understand that all the ones I met in my grade school years of two-grades of thirty or more packed into one classroom (yes SIXTY children!) had their voices pushed down hard in the deeply patriarchal world of 1950's Roman Catholicism.
There were two teachers in my eight years whose voices transcended that set of muffling circumstances. I have tried to track them down; I recently found my fifth and sixth grade teacher and sent her this piece to thank her.
Sister Mary Juliana Sienko, OSF
I cannot show this beloved teacher in action; she was more a presence, grace, permission, love disciplined.
I remember a round face, smiling out of the complicated wimple and veil.
I remember sunshine through classroom windows,
Friday afternoons cleaning out our desks and being moved to new seats in the nailed-down rows for a “new perspective.”
I remember solving math problems at the board, not in a terrified solo, but in a little hive of kids, chalking numbers and discussing the mysteries of long division.
I remember writing and directing a play about the life of the first native American saint, Katerie Tekakwitha. I remember earnest rehearsals in the cloakroom, and--- not being able to chose among my three best friends for the lead role, casting all three.
The shortest, Diana Giordano, played Tekakwitha the girl; next in height, Kathy Lowe was Tekakwitha as a young woman; Linda Huber, the tallest was cast as Tekakwitha in her final years.
I remember the absence of fear, that constant, corroding, breath-holding fear of making a mistake, shame on your head and upon your house!!!
I remember a calm, if crowded and buzzing-with-activity room.
I remember the sense of personal safety, loyalty to my teacher, not to her authority.
I remember sixth grade being the last year I trusted myself, my voice, my intelligence, my beauty.
I remember—have never forgotten-- that this was the year I decided I wanted to be a teacher, a decision I have never regretted.