How it all began

 

What is a name but an arbritrary stamp

That's put on us by our parents

Without our consent.

 

Most of us tend to think that in order for someone to have a meaningful impact in our lives, that they somehow have to be around for a long period of time, but I don't believe that's necessarily true. I believe that the quality of the time spent is much more important. My first ever substitute teacher had a huge impact on me that resonates with me till this day. When I first arrived in Paris in the early 80's, up to that point, the educational style that I ever experienced in Haïti had always been the more traditional and formal kind, where the main emphasis was on things like discipline, reading, writing and arithmetic. My first teacher in France, although a very nice lady, was also very traditional in her ways. She was strictly by the book, not the type to deviate from the curriculum at all. Having never experienced any other way of learning it seemed ''normal'' to me that school was this very serious place, where you went and put your head down, did your work and the only time you were allowed to have fun was during recess. Now looking back at it, school seemed very industrial in nature. Then one day our full time teacher informed us that she was going to be away for a while, that she was having a baby and that we were going to meet our new subsitute teacher. And she wanted us to treat her with the utmost respect. I remember some of the kids being sad to see her go. Fear of the unknown for the most part. We assumed that she was going to be this frightening, mean person. But when we finally got the chance to meet her for the first time, she ended up being the complete opposite, she was the most joyful, charming and wonderful human being. She was just as nice as our full time teacher but contrary to her she was full of enthusiam about teaching. She seemed more passionate and you could sense that she truly enjoyed being around children. She was also a bit of an eccentric, she would always wear these long trench coats which made her look like a character in a movie. But more importantly what truly set her apart was that unlike our regular teacher, she would often deviate from the curriculum to tell us stories, and at times she would even stop us in the middle of what we were doing to do a drawing, a collage or a painting session. It was always something different and creative. She definitely wasn't your typical teacher, her style of teaching emphasized not only on the intellectual side of learning but also on the creative aspect which I believe is just as if not more important. I remember she would always want us to call her by her first name, which makes me regret even more the fact that I can no longer recall it.

 

But then again what is a name but an arbritrary stamp

That's put on us by our parents

Without our consent.

 

But for the sake of this story we'll call her Annie. I remember always being eager to hand Annie my homework along with a few of my drawings to see her reaction. And I'm ashamed to admit this but I even remember wishing that she could be my mother. She showed me that learning didn't have to be this dreadful thing, that learning could also be just as enjoyable if not more enjoyable than recess. She would often say that creative activities were just as if not more important than the three r's. Her passion for the arts truly rubbed off on me. I remember running to school one day, eager to show her one of my new drawings and to my surprised and disappointment, the whole class was quieter than usual and our full time teacher was back, sitting at her desk. I knew that this day would eventually come but I never thought about it. It only seemed like yesterday that Annie had popped into our little lives. We were all sad that she didn't show up to at least say good bye for one last time. As we got back to our normal everyday routine, it was very difficult for me to forget Annie. I would go home wishing for her to come back. I would even wish for our full time teacher to get pregnant again, anything to get Annie back. But later on I found out that, that wasn't how things worked. Then one afternoon as I was snapping out of a daydream, the teacher called me up and told me that she wasn't feeling too well and that she wanted me to go out and get her some aspirins from the school nurse. She told me to hurry and to run as fast as I could. Which I thought was kind of strange because she would normally always yell at me to do the opposite. But I didn't question her, if anything I was happy to get out of class. I ran as fast as I could and as I was approaching the end of the hallway. To my surprise and amazement, Annie popped out from behind the wall and caught me in her arms with my full momentum and held me tight, and I'll never forget what she said. She told me that she felt terrible for leaving without saying goodbye to the class. That the sight of us crying, would've been too difficult for her to bare. She didn't want to leave us on such a sad note. She wanted to leave us with the great memories we had of her. She then told me that she believed that I had a special gift and that no matter what, I should never abandoned my love for the arts. No one had ever spoken to me that way before. I still deeply treasure those kind words, that's why they inspire me till this day.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published