Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pearl Harbor Day

Well, it’s Pearl Harbor Day, also the birthday of my sixth grade English teacher, Ms. Ellis. She was never one of my favorite teachers, but my best friend really disliked her because when Ms. Ellis was rebuking her once for some behavior or other (probably talking in class—that’s the only misbehavior we knew how to do back then) she said, “Your parents may let you act like that at home, but it’s not acceptable here,” and my friend took that as an insult to her parents, and never forgave the teacher for it. I also remember Ms. Ellis for misusing a Bible quote. When she punished the whole class for something one student did, she’d say, “It rains on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.” But that quote, which is from the Sermon on the Mount, is an example Jesus used to illustrate God’s grace and mercy, to remind us that we all receive God’s blessings even though we are sinners. On Pearl Harbor Day, I always remember Ms. Ellis, and that reminds me of God’s mercy and forgiveness, and while I’m forgiving the Japanese Imperial Air Force, I’m also trying to forgive my sixth grade English teacher. As one Pearl Harbor survivor said, “forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.”

In thinking of Ms. Ellis’s transgressions, I also automatically remember my years as a teacher, and all the times I spoke carelessly or inaccurately, the times I inadvertently insulted or hurt one of my students. It happens, even when you care a lot and pay attention. So I need forgiveness, too. I hope my former students have forgotten the mistakes I made.


Sara said...

My 6th grade teacher was quite possibly one of the worst people on the face of the place. I was really shy as a child and in 6th grade some girls latched onto my shyness and made fun of me daily for it. Eventually they got kind of violent. She said it was my fault. If I weren't shy then they wouldn't have something to bully me about. Talk about a ridiculous response to a bullying problem. She was young and it was obvious she had been the popular one in school. She had probably been a lot like these girls were. All of my other teachers have been great, though.

Karen said...

When I was in fifth grade, I had the best teacher ever, Miss Martin. One day, we were in science class in the cafeteria (shows how much respect our school system had for science education--another whole story) and we were sitting at long tables, instead of desks. The girls at the other end of my table cooked up a scheme called "Let's be mean to Tammy"--I think Tammy was chosen almost at random--she was normally one of the in-group, not a natural outcast of any kind. The plan was carried out and Tammy didn't stand up to the cruelty long before she told the teacher what was happening. Miss Martin stopped the class and she went around the room and every single girl had to say whether or not she had been in on the plan. They had to tell the truth because everybody was witnessing it. Then, all the girls who confessed got taken to another room, en masse, for re-education, including a whack with Miss Martin's Board of Education. I was so lucky to be able to learn that lesson by watching other people get in trouble. It was pure luck that I wasn't at the other end of the table, and I knew it. But after that, I was always vocal about standing up for anybody being picked on by a group, and I made some good friends that way.