43 Years

June 19, 2010

I'm sitting at home, conditioning my hair (just colored; cross your fingers) instead of being where I'd really rather be -- Doris Johnson's retirement reception.  I've just done so much running this week and, of course, yesterday was our train excursion, that I need to stay home today.  I have not done any Father's Day shopping; my house needs some attention; and even though Jamie is working right now he could call at any given moment and need me to go test drive a truck he's heard about.  So, here I sit.

 I would imagine Sallisaw's finest have already gathered to celebrate with Mrs. Johnson.  Mom told me her son, Barrett, has a presentation he's put together that is sure to be an emotional trip down memory lane.  Since I won't be participating today, I'll just take a few moments here to reflect on my favorite teacher -- ever!

I'm having a hard time even knowing where to begin.  I vividly remember that classroom, learning sight words and testing for reading groups, lining up to go to lunch or outside, the day Jarod Proctor wet his pants, Libby Lucas's amazing wide pencils that had an iridescent sheen to them, and our coloring contests (I won one in the fall for my amazing brown squirrel).  I can hear Mrs. Johnson's voice in my memory right now -- "Boys and girls..."  I've heard that phrase many times over the years since first grade when I would pop in to say hello when I and, later the girl or girls and I, had  stopped by to visit Mom at school.  She always stopped her class of 6 and 7 year olds and acted as though the President himself had just appeared at her door.  Her introductions alone have made me puff up with pride (I am, after all, her favorite ;- )  ) and a few times she asked me to please sit down and read to her students.  I wish I had a picture of us at Liberty, but here's one of her and HoJo (Howard Johnson) at Parker's first birthday party.

One of the most important lessons I learned in Doris Johnson's classroom was that it hurts when you disappoint someone who has high expectations of you.  It seems like this happened a year ago instead of nearly 30!  Three first grade classes (our "wing") were going to have an Easter egg hunt at Mrs. Johnson's sister's ranch (her name was Blanche -- it rhymes!).  I know there are pictures of this day somewhere and I want them!  She had left us alone for a few minutes in the room while she was getting us ready to board buses.  

Well, the prize eggs were unattended on the back reading table.  All morning those eggs had been the topic of discussion.  We didn't know what was in them!  She wouldn't tell!  If you know me at all, you know that I was beside myself with angst!  Fortunately, Ryan Copeland was as well and he became my partner in crime.  I'm sure you know where this is headed -- we looked.  There was money in them -- a $5 bill!  That was big money in 1981!  Unfortunately, our class was full of snitches who ratted us out the second she returned.  Mrs. Johnson knew how to make the punishment fit the crime and Ryan and I were banned from winning a prize egg.  Even if we found one, we couldn't pick it up.  I think I shed a few quiet tears over this.  This was the first time I'd ever gotten in trouble at school and it killed me that Mrs. Johnson was the one punishing me.  So, I learned a valuable life lesson -- do what's expected of you.  And, in the rare cases that you may not live up to those expectations, don't do it in a room full of people!

I'm so blessed to have been in Doris Johnson's first grade classroom.  I know she is a big part of my loving school (always) and eventually becoming a teacher myself.  She's literally touched thousands of lives.  Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for loving 43 years' worth of Sallisaw first graders.  

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