Mrs. Kearney was her name. She stood less than 5 feet tall, but was one of the most powerful teachers at school 80. She was one of four African-American female teachers I had the pleasure of being connected to while in primary school. I think she was my 6th grade teacher. She could often be found carrying a yard stick. Which ironically, was almost as tall as her petite stature.
She was not one to be played with. She epitomized a dedicated and serious educator. Anyone in her class knew she was about the business of teaching. There was no fooling around and or talking back in her class…period. That was the reason for the yard stick. My elementary school days represented teachers like her who took on the role of loco parentis. There was this kid by the name of Sam in the class. He was often the subject of her attention, for many reasons. However, she was more of the nurturing type never demeaning or disrespectful!
My experiences with Mrs. Kearney were both exciting and fearful. As I never wanted to be called upon in class. I had this serious and unwavering belief that I wasn’t smart. I hated with a passion being called on to read aloud. This was directly connected to my issue with reading. You see, I had to receive extra help in school for reading. I along with a few of my classmates were pulled out of class, three times a week to focus on becoming better readers.
Now, as a life-long learner, I realize my issue wasn’t reading so much…as it was comprehension and phonics. Which seems to still be a large issue with many children today. As a young student, I don’t recall any teacher ever indicating the need to understand what I was reading. I, like many of my classmates, thought we were just reading for the sake of reading. This ended with me spending countless hours over the summers reading books like Mother Goose Nursery rhymes to my mother.
When all I wanted was to enjoy every hour of the dog days of summer. I was required to read each and every day to my mother. We would sit in our living room on the green couch. Concentrating was more than difficult, as my sisters were out playing with friends. Then the sound of the warm breeze blowing our sheer curtains. Not to mention the perfect laughter haunted my every word. My mother was relentless when it came to school. There was no room for excuses with her.
This truth lives with MEE even today as an adjunct instructor and a higher education professional. My mother felt it was in my best interest that I repeat a grade. Again, all stemming from my lack of confidence in reading. I passed all exams. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t close to failing by the grades on my final report card. However, as my mother, she pulled executive rank and made the decision alone. She didn’t consult with my teacher and clearly not with me. For her, she was my first teacher and took the position seriously! Although, I still am not happy about being held back a grade. I do know and better understand that she was thinking of my long term success in school. Wanting to stack the deck in my favor and give me the best possible opportunities to flourish with reading. Today, I am an avid reader. I enjoy taking field trips to the bookstore. As a matter of fact, I was at a used book store today.
I consider books beautiful instruments that are meant to be played by the person interacting with it. They represent a vast world of enchantment, exploration and of course, liberation! I have a ritual where I purchase a book every month. They serve as my source of entertainment and refuge. Books take the place of a television in my bedroom. I haven’t had one in my bedroom since 1999.
As the world celebrate women all over the globe this month and every other month. This blog is my shout out to Mrs. Kearney and of course, my mother. For providing me with strong and unyielding examples of support, tough love and an appreciation for education. Because of them, I can’t imagine my life without books and reading. Moreover, I can share their passion and affinity for education with my students and daughter.