With Gratitude to Mrs. L., Who Taught Me I Was Somebody

Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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5 Responses

  1. Michael Cain says:

    Bless Mrs./Dr. L. I also owe a sizeable debt to a grade school teacher, for teaching me how good I could be at academic kinds of things, but it wasn’t a relationship that ever tempted me to send her cards.

    My fifth-grade teacher Mrs. H. believed her smartest students should have to work as hard, or harder, then anyone else. I was the smartest kid to come along in many years, and she piled the work on. I was occasionally reduced to tears at the desk in my bedroom by the ever-increasing scale of what I had to finish each week. As we approached the end of the spring semester, my attitude had been ground down to, “You. Can’t. Break. Me.” I survived, and was in college before I encountered another class where I would say, “I have to work hard at this.”

    One of the service clubs in that Iowa town (Kiwanis? Elks?) had a fancy annual luncheon for the best students in each grade in junior high and high school. It was often observed that 90% of the kids there had been through Mrs. H’s fifth grade. TTBOMK, no one ever asked why that was so, or how we felt about it.Report

  2. This beautifully illustrates one of the things that I have found so irritating about the Joe Biden controversy. While I personally think Biden is a creep, an overaggressive hunt for creeps lurking everywhere is a very, very bad thing for the most vulnerable kids in our country. Some children go to school starving for affection from anywhere, desperately needing a teacher who gives hugs if they’re young, or gives rides to events if they’re older (I had a teacher do that for me once, and it was lifesaving). We used to go over to our teacher’s house for club meetings. All these things probably don’t happen any more and it makes the kids who need some kind of adult intervention worse off, not better. :/Report

  3. fillyjonk says:

    I came from a different background – my family WAS functional, though perhaps at times a bit emotionally distant. We were well enough off, but “poorer” (in some v. noticeable ways) from most of the other families in the rich suburb where we lived. I could deal with that. But I was *incredibly* unpopular in school (I really wonder now, as an adult, if I was/am neurodivergent; I remember being given a series of something like IQ tests and also dexterity tests as a 2nd grader or so and I wonder….I know autism was less on the radar back then, especially for girls, but I wonder. No one ever told me why I was tested).

    Anyway. Having supportive teachers (and school librarians, and being allowed to eat my lunch in the library for a while when things got really bad for me in the lunchroom) made a lot of difference. Also the other adults at the church we belonged to helped. Because somehow in my kid brain I believed that my parents “had” to love me (as in, it was required) but that I was probably so tiresome to be around that other people would only tolerate me at best…

    I will admit I still tend to make friends with people older than I am (which, now that I’m 50, sucks in a very specific way: they are more prone to die than younger friends). I’m sure it’s related to that “at least the teachers like me” feeling I had as a kid.Report

  4. Even though I’ve worked hard for much of what I have, I’ve had more than my fair share of instances stepping in to encourage and validate me, so many that I probably don’t know about many or even most of them.

    All that is to say, I haven’t had your particular experience, in part because I didn’t need it in the same way. But I’m so glad it happened for you and that Dr. L did have that positive affect on your life. Thanks for writing this story.Report

  5. Michael Drew says:

    Hooray for Dr. Mrs. L.!Report