Mrs. Jones didn't judge my words the way the district attorney had. She didn't probe and pry and prick me like the psychologists or the nurse examiner at the hospital. She didn't insult and blame and scream like my mother initially had -or weep like my father -Mrs. Jones became much more than my English teacher. She was a partner in my internal battle, guiding me with her red-penned words on the many pages of my always-read, always understood, journal.
In 1991 I went back. I walked through the bustling hallway (I had arrived just as the bell rang), and was surprised at how young the students looked. Had I been so young just five years ago? No, I believe I was much, much older. By coincidence, Mrs. Jones was just leaving her classroom as I approached. She carried a crumpling cardboard box full of journals. At first, she just smiled, had that confused, but friendly look of unfamiliarity. And then it hit her. "Tali is it really you?"
I've been told that it is the English teacher, always the English teacher, who is directly faced with the at-risk students. The faithful dustpan carrier who picks up the pieces when they fall. Perhaps this is because writing so often mirrors our innermost fears and dark secrets, places where a science or math teacher have no grounds to step.
I chose to teach English because I had no choice.
I will never forget what Mrs. Jones did for me. It's been almost ten years since high school. I have my own group of students now and I, too, carry around a worn cardboard box full of journals. And a dustpan.
©1998 Tali Whiteley. All rights reserved. Reprinted from A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul® by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Used with the permission of the publisher. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
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