My roommate is a phenomenal woman. For the past year that we have lived together I have watched in awe and respect as she woke up, left the house and proceeded to endure the crazy abuse of her students and coworkers alike. She works as a Special Ed teacher in the Cleveland public school system and although she has the gifts and talents to work with emotionally disturbed children, the class she’s taught the last 2 years has been a challenge, even for her. It is only in talking with her that I am exposed to another world that consists of sexually active 12 year olds, extreme child abuse in the home and kids who think doing time in jail is actually commendable. But there are amazing days when she gets to see a breakthrough.
There are times that the seeds she is fervently sowing each day into these young lives take root and grow into something beautiful.
Her most recent encounter with a student left both her and the student, sweaty, emotional and in tears. The students are encouraged to write about what is going on in their world. The following is a letter her student wrote regarding this last encounter:
One day Ms. Harrison made me mad because she thought that me and Joe was on the stage by ourselves but it was really me, Joe and Tiffany. We wasn’t doing nothing but talking. I felt like just because rumors go around the school doesn’t mean they are true. So she talked to me in the hallway and yes I had an attitude because she was saying “when you with a boy on the stage, I’m not gonna act like it’s ok!” Then that’s when I went in the gym and she started to get loud. I felt like she was showing out. She was treating me like I’m some slave! So yes I’m a pull back. Then she was yellin’ in my ear, (the student thinks) “like OMG can you just shut up!” Then she gonna start actin like she the police. So I’m like hold on this lady done lost her mind! Then she was saying “stop fighting me! I’m like what you mean why am I fighting you? Cuz you steady comin at me! Then that’s when we went in a preschool room. I was pissed off. I was crying like a water fall. But Ms. Harrison was saying all the stuff I be thinking and all the stuff I be mad about. She understands how I feel. I was thinking that all my hate and anger is going to the wrong people! Then she hugged me and I hugged her and we both started crying. When I was hugging her I didn’t want to let go. I know Ms. Harrison loves me and she knows I love her! The way I solved this problem is by hugging it out.
WOW. I can’t remember ever learning anything more important in school than unconditional love. And that is what this student learned and has been learning all year long in my friend’s classroom.
Tuesday evening we have a surprise planned for my friend. We want to celebrate her and honor her for her endurance. The perseverance, faithfulness and obedience she displayed these last 9 months are remarkable. She always goes above and beyond the call of duty for her students. Packing them lunches, buying them gifts, taking them to plays and ballets. She makes it her goal to expose them to different cultures and help them see outside the limitations of their neighborhoods. If only there were more teachers like her!
If only there were more people who would take the time to honor them, then maybe there would be.
I know I would not be where I am today if not for great teachers. One in fact attended my graduate school graduation. He and I both cried as we embraced and I met his wife for the first time. She cried as well.
A great teacher not only educates their students, they deposit something eternal in them. Something that will help the student achieve greatness in their own lives and go on to do the same for others.
Ms. Theresa Harrison…