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Oceans for emotions: Respect one of best lessons ever learned

Aug. 26, 2011 at 3:26 a.m.


By Elaine Wheat

Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of Heaven.

- Matthew 19:14

School has started once again, and I got a special thrill. Zach, my great nephew, was telling me about each of his teachers. He finally he got to his last one, and said that he had Mrs. Trcka for science. I fairly shouted, "So did I, but I called her Beth, and I taught her science when I had her." Then I said to myself, "I hope I taught her well. What comes around goes around" is really true. I also went to high school with her father, who later became my principal, and then my superintendent after we had gone steady for a while in high school.

School has started, and I went to an elementary school to help a student on that first day, and I could feel the emotions flying around like static electricity.

I wondered if any of the students knew that the teachers were nervous and excited, too. From each room I passed going down the polished hallway, I could hear the teachers going over the rules for their class, and I could see the students sitting there, some crying, some going through their desks, some lost in space, and longing for the next bell to ring.

I am retiring after being an educator for 52 years, but I have one last lesson I would like to teach, not to the students, but to the teachers: Treat the students with respect, and they will act respectful.

I have taught in many different areas from regular classroom, Special Education, Behavioral Units, to being an educational therapist in a treatment center for very troubled students. I started my classes each day with the saying, "I will treat you with respect," and the students would reply in unison, "And we will act respectful."

Today, look at each student in your class and realize that each one of them will become something. Here in town, there are two doctors who I taught, two lawyers, probably a bunch of teachers, my garbage man who stops and backs up when he sees me running after him when I forgot to get the garbage out on time, and says that he could pick out my voice from anywhere. He only stops and comes back because I always respected him, and he still respects me.

Even the lady at the Texas Drive Inn gives me a little something extra each time I go there to pick up my order. She says it is for respect.

At the end of the school day, I had to take a backpack to a student, and they were all lined up waiting for their pickup.

They were all out there squirming-and-worming, and when it was their turn to leave, I saw a lot of them hug their teacher, and they left smiling.

Dear Lord, I left crying in my car, for I would not have any students anymore just because I am retiring at 75. I have lived three quarters of a century and taught half of that century. Lord, thank you for respecting me enough to let me do that. I respect me for that, too.

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