by Sr. Roselynn Humbert
Anyone who knows me knows I don’t tell many stories of how much I enjoyed teaching. From being bored by first grade reading groups to the challenge of teens in junior high and high school classes, I would not say I felt like a good teacher. I am sure the principals were not looking forward to my assignment to their school. I was changed so often the adage was: either everybody wants you or nobody does. You can be sure this bouncing from grade to grade and diocese to diocese did nothing for my confidence in my ability to teach. This story comes from the last year I taught junior high before going on to teach high school.
It was not a very good experience. I had moved from a fairly progressive parish and school to one of the most traditional in the diocese. I had to move to Toledo in order to take junior and senior courses in math at UT to prepare for a Master’s program and was failing each of them. I was teaching science when my area was math. I felt challenged to say the least.
About two months ago one of our sisters called me asked me to call her back. When I talked with her she had the most astounding story. A woman had met her in the grocery store and asked if she knew me. She said wonderful things about me as a teacher and gave the sister her phone number so I could contact her if I wanted to. I was dumfounded.
From the name, I was pretty sure I remembered her from grade 8. When I called her I was sure of it. The person she described as her teacher was definitely me. She filled me in on a bit of background that I didn’t remember: she had transferred from an inner city public school to this Catholic school because she wanted to attend a local Catholic High School and thought this would help her.
She was new to everybody and everything at this school. She often stood off to the side during recess because the girls were not very welcoming. She related how I would try to encourage her to join in and would even play games with the students to help her feel included. She told me many stories I did not remember that made a deep impression on her. She became a teacher herself and I was her role model for the 40 years she taught in the public schools. Her story is such a gift to me.
I was so unaware of all this during the one year I taught at this school. I moved on so I was never there for her to follow up with during high school or later. My memories of this year were of struggle and painful events. As I see it now I can be thankful that something so positive came from this year.
My memory of this year is not the same as that of this student that’s for sure. I guess when we say God writes straight with crooked lines we need to look at events from many angles. What is God’s angle of that year? Was this young woman the only eighth grader that had a positive experience? How many different angles do we need to use to see the whole picture? A year I wrote off as a disaster, was life-giving to at least one young person. At this time of year in 2020 we may feel there is not much good that can be remembered from the pain and struggle of this year. From Covid 19 to politics, from Black Lives Matter to Cardinal McCarrick, there are enough negatives to dwell on. It is our challenge to find the positive in spite of the negative. Let us take some time during Advent to find or make some positive experiences for 2020.