Mrs. Sweeny was a teacher everyone should experience. My memory says she was tall and wore her hair in a French roll. She dressed in the latest fashion, for professional women in 1969. Her voice was soothing. But it was her kindness that won us over. That lilt of kindness seemed to exude from her. It was in her voice, her demeanor, and her actions.
We were a rowdy bunch. There were sit-ins to be organized, to protest girls having to wear dresses to school and to get yoga classes on the electives list. We wanted to exercise our rights to express ourselves. And then… we walked into Mrs. Sweeny’s 9th grade English class. At that moment, it seemed as though we were transported to a different world. We willingly sat properly at our desks. We listened intently to her new, creative idea for the day. Most of all, we wanted her to approve. Mrs. Sweeny practiced kindness on a higher level, which inspired each student’s deep desire to hear her say, “Well done.”
Our assignment was to write an epitaph about anyone real or imagined. I chose to write about some imagined hippy guy named Lee. I wrote to the best of my ability, erasing, crumpling paper, starting over until finally I had an epitaph that I was proud of and hopefully Mrs. Sweeny might be proud of it too.
Long story short, SHE WAS PROUD! She asked me to stay after class for just a minute. I did. With the greatest kindness in her voice, she told me that I could win people over with my talent, that I could draw pictures with my words, that I was an artist. I tucked that vote of confidence away in my heart. Being an artist was not my first concern. More than that, I was concerned with how to share the level of kindness Mrs. Sweeny had taught me.
Teachers like Mrs. Sweeny–across our nation and around the world–give enormous gifts to their students daily. They care for our society’s children with great passion. I wonder what the world would be like if society cared for our teachers with the same passion.
Celebrate teachers on Tuesday, May 8th!
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”-Albert Einstein
Image: © Juan Moyano | Dreamstime.com