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Monday, September 05, 2005

 

Dear Mrs. Bevans,

Dear Mrs. Bevans,

I am not sure if you remember me after all this time, but I hope you do. I have meant to write this letter for years. It's embarrassing that it has taken me this long, but here it is.

I was in your 5th Grade class at Lyndale Elementary. I was the one with a bad haircut who wore the same pair of jeans every day. I got in trouble for reading in class. I read in class most of the time.

I was very into Betsy Byers books, and "Where the Red Fern Grows", and "Summer of the Monkeys" and about a million other books. It must have driven you batty, but you were always certain to let me know you supported my READING, just not when I was supposed to be listening to how to add fractions. You made it seem like my pretty darn near obsessive compulsion for reading was a GOOD thing. You would suggest books for me and I usually loved them. You checked my eyes for tears when I finished "Where the Red Fern Grows" in class. When I got to that ending that tore your heart out. That was so bittersweet. It makes me sigh to this very day, thinking of those hound dogs, and the boy who saved his pennies in a coffee can in his barn, and the love that Dan and little Ann had for each other and for their boy master.

I have lovely warm memories of your classroom that year. The rest of my life at the time, not so warm and lovely. The 5th grade was a difficult time for me. My mom had gone back to work, and I was pretty much saddled with the child care responsibilities which meant I had to be home every day after school to watch my sisters. No play dates. Not that I had many. My best friends were my cousin Tiffany and Jenny, and Tiffany went to private Catholic school and that was the year Jenny decided she liked Amy Kibler better. I was friendless. And NO ONE wants to be friendless in the 5th grade. NO ONE.

Amy Kibler and my former best friend Jenny would terrorize me on the school bus. One afternoon they went up and down every aisle, whispering behind a "Fame" l.p. record. They would look at me and whisper presumably mean awful things about me to every single kid on the entire bus, all the way down the aisle. They probably said that I wore the same pair of jeans every day because they were the only pair I had. I tried so hard not to cry. SO HARD. But my tears betrayed me and let them know they had done it. They had hurt me. They had humiliated me and made me cry. There was a boy named Matt who was popular. He sat down next to me and said "Don't pay any attention to them. They're just being mean."

I still think of the kindness of that boy, and the compassion and bravery he displayed risking that. It could have been his social death. It could have made him the pariah of the school bus, sitting next to the dork that was getting her 5th grade ass handed to her in the popular wars on the school bus. God I hated that bus ride. Straight home on the bus every afternoon. 30 minutes of being on the losing end of 5th grade class warfare with that God Awful nasty Nancy Parsons, who along with Amy Kibler, seemed to have taken my friend to the other side.

I was so alone, and every day I had to face that bus ride home to take care of my sisters who didn't even care about my stupid bus nightmares. THEY had pants. Ungrateful brats. They got pants and they never had to ever DO anything but eat oreos and watch Little House on the Prairie in the dark of our basement. If my parents had paid me for my hours of latch-key services I may have been able to buy some fucking pants so I could stop being teased, but the needs of my siblings always seemed to trump mine. Someone always needed some fucking dumb-ass glasses or something. Stupid sisters. I wished so many times that I was an only child (and yes, I now realize that my sisters are the greatest asset I have in this life but at the time, hey, we were working for the same limited resources).

I was on the losing end of our own household trickle-down economics. Trickle my ass. There may have been a fine mist, but all I know is I never got my fucking new pants, which in turn led to the social impalement I received on a daily basis.

My bus torture continued. So did my long afternoons with my sisters. I tended to take out my frustration on them, and tortured them in turn. Then my mom would get home and yell about the mess I had made and something about how sick of kids she was after teaching the ungrateful urchins herself all day (she was a teacher too) and she was tired and yada yada yada.... There was not a whole lotta love in the afternoons at my house.

But that was the bus, that was at home, not your classroom, Mrs. Bevans. You didn't allow that bullshit in your classroom, and you called the ringleaders of social torture on their crap and I loved you for it. I am not sure how you cracked the code. But what you did was create an environment where I could actually learn. They should implement a special Maslow's Pyramid for 5th graders. Somewhere between self actualization and basic physical needs there should be a "not being tortured for having only one pair of pants" and that would be just under "learning fractions".

You met with my parents and came up with a set schedule of times when it was acceptable for me to bury my head in a book. You sat me down and pulled out my test scores (high) and laid it next to me homework scores (low and spotty) and pointed out the disparity. I wasn't stupid! I was just lazy! And you called me on it. You were one of the first people I recall telling me that I was smart. I so needed to hear that. I needed someone to notice me. And you did Mrs. Bevans. Thank you for noticing me. Thank you for encouraging my love of books and for convincing me that not only was I not dumb, but I was actually smarter than most of the kids in my class.

That was the year I started developing just a wee tiny little bit of self esteem. YOU seemed to like me after all. You were everybody's favorite teacher and you LIKED me. You made me feel like you even liked me a little better than Nancy Parsons and her minions, the instruments of pre-adolescent social impalement.

Thank you Mrs. Bevans. That spark you gave me lit a little fire that I still have burning today. I was in such desperate need of that little spark. Of all the teachers I have had, you had the largest impact on me. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being so good at your job. Thank you for not allowing social torture in your classroom. You are truly the best teacher I ever had. I know you lost your husband years ago and I was so sorry for your loss. I hope you have a lovely life because you deserve to have a lovely life. You made a difference in my life and I will always be grateful for that. You are a gifted teacher. I was lucky to be your student. My life is better because I was your student. Thank you.

Meghan

p.s. I have lots of pants now.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Kari said...

Beautiful, Meghan. Thank you for sharing.

It really recalls my 5th grade experience. Ah, the social torture, indeed. Fickle friendships, all of them.

I am glad you have lots of pants now, but I am also glad that you know not to tease those with only one pair.

11:16 AM  
Blogger cmhl said...

fantastic post. I may "borrow" it for one of my teachers, if that is OK with you. Mrs. Brevens sounds like a good egg.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a similarly significant teacher in grade 6. I wasn't being tortured socially, but a horrid teacher in grade 5 had left my confidence regarding school (not to mention skills I should have learned in grade 5 but didn't because that lazy ass didn't teach them). Mrs. Johnson took me under her wing and encouraged me without ever making me feel like an intellectual charity case or drawing it to the attention of the other kids.

I actually got to tell her how special she'd been to me on the night of my high school graduation ceremony. I never saw her between grade 6 and grade 12 but in one of those bizarre twists of fate, she was a good friend of my then boyfriend's mother and was babysitting for them that night so his parents could attend our ceremony. Of all the teachers I'd had over the years she was the only one from elementary/junior high I would have wanted there that night and I was so glad that she got to know that I graduated and that she had made such a difference in one child's life.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Lin said...

Isn't it amazing the imprint one adult can have have on a child's life? Pity the poor child who doesn't have a Mrs. Bevans in his life.

10:57 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Meghan, I'm certain that she remembers you. I would encourage you to look her up and send her a note. It would make her day. You wouldn't believe what teachers remember, especially when it comes to students who meant a lot to them.

My social torture was in 4th, 6th, and 8th grades. Funny how the odd years were so much better.

9:55 AM  
Blogger GraceD said...

Meghan, do you have a literary agent yet? No? Why not? This post alone should be published in a magazine, an anthology of essays, somewhere.

You have an agent? Yes? Tell them to get on it.

Awesome, you are. Awesome.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Prego said...

As a teacher, I see a some of hard-luck cases. Hopefully there's a little Mrs. Bevans in me. I, in turn, ignore the smell of urine and BO on a daily basis. Breaks your heart sometimes.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Your little brat sister said...

Hey now, I had no pants either. And I too now have a slight compulsive buying problem with clothing.

Can..never...have...enough...

1:34 PM  
Blogger EverydaySuperGoddess said...

Don't forget, I was living a step below you on the trickle-down scale, sister.

I think fifth grade is the year when half of all girls turn to the dark side. The other half end up scarred for life.

The good news is, most of those dark side girls grow up into very uninteresting women.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous your bratty little sister said...

AND, do you remember the "Annie" glasses I had from 1st grade till 4th grade? The ones that where very noticeably too small for my face and were the totally wrong prescription? I don't think mom and dad were spending their cash on pants or glasses for me. Betsy!! Its all Betsy's fault!!

I love the entry, just had to clarify a few points. You make us sound like monsters!

1:43 PM  
Blogger AverageMom said...

Tears. You gave me tears! What a wonderful tribute. I hope Mrs. Bevans gets to read it.
For me it was grade 10 and 11. Horrible times, those.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

I love this post, Meghan. I had tears in my eyes by the end.

And I love that your sisters jumped in here and threw down.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Meghan said...

Okay SISTERS!

I WROTE THIS FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A FIFTH GRADER!!!!!!! A FIFTH GRADER!!!!!!

Dude, you are not monsters. But you were then! You stole my parents! Little parent stealing MULTIPLE PANTS OWNING BRATS!

12:12 PM  
Blogger Swami-o said...

Very nice introspection and expression of gratitude.It kindled like rememberances of special people who have touched my life and made it possible to for me to believe in myself.Thank you Meghan, and thank you. especilally..Mrs.Bevans

9:01 AM  
Blogger Katie Burke said...

I LOVE MRS. BEVANS!

7:29 PM  

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