What Mrs. Adams Taught Me

The greatest teachers do more than fill our minds. They change them. And our lives.

There are a lot of teachers out there reading this blog. I’m honored. And deeply concerned about my spelling and grammar! Surely you know by now that, besides mom and dad, there’s truly no one more important in the life of your students than you. To prove it, and to help you start your school year off inspired and encouraged, how about a few stories of  great teachers and their impact on our lives? Here’s the first:

Mrs. Adams was my homeroom teacher in the sixth grade. A homeroom teacher’s job was simple back then: Mrs. Adams assigned us lockers, kept us quiet for an hour of study every day, and graded our notebooks for organization every six weeks.

My notebook was not organized. Ever.

Papers were not filed away properly behind properly-labeled dividers. My pencils and pens weren’t stowed in that little bag with the zipper. My ruler wasn’t bound in place by three rings.

Most of my papers, pens, pencils (and my ruler) were shoved into my locker until the day before my notebook was to be graded, at which time I removed them, uncrinkled them the best I could, and snapped them into my notebook.

My locker was across the hall from Mrs. Adams’ door. She could see my locker from her desk. She could see me kneel down and turn the small silver dial. She could see papers and pens and leftover lunch cascade from my locker and onto the hallway floor several times every day. She could see me pull what I needed from the pile and shove what was unneeded back in with my foot.

She saw this.

For months she saw this.

Then one day she snapped.

That morning I found my locker empty. On it was a note: “Come see me. -Mrs. Adams.”

I saw her. I saw the contents of my locker in a pile beside her desk too. And beside the pile, a brown paper grocery bag.

For six weeks that bag was my locker. After every period, I had to kneel beside Mrs. Adams’ desk, put my books away in the bag and take from the bag the books I needed for the next class. Only the essentials fit inside the bag. No loose papers were allowed in the bag. No loose anything. No leftover lunch either.

I was the sixth grade equivalent of that homeless guy downtown, pushing around a shopping cart full of belongings. Except better organized. And fewer belongings.

What’s worse? Mrs. Adams went to my church. For years Mrs. Adams would see me in the halls on Sunday morning and ask, “How’s your locker looking?”

She’s in my head still. She’s the reason I clean off my desk at the end of the day and clean it out completely every month. She’s the reason my books are Dewey decimalized. I still naturally cram and pile stuff. But I don’t like it. Not for long.

That’s what Mrs. Adams taught me.