Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1492: My experience with a healing teacher

  Teachers must be healers. My dear wife woke up one morning last week with this thought ringing in her head and shared it with me. It’s a powerful notion. I shared with her an experience that powerfully illustrates the point. I want to share the experience with you. Teachers must be healers.

  When I was in the fourth or fifth grade at Vaughan Jr. High School in North Baldwin County, Ala., I had serious problems with teachers and others. The situation was so bad that teachers would not call on me in class. No matter how often I raised my hand, they simply would not call on me. As best as I can remember, this practice started in the third grade and continued in the fourth and fifth grades. I believe it developed in response to my mean self-righteous and know-it-all attitude. I know the practice was utilized by more than one teacher during more than one year. Teachers must be healers.

  I recall that my teacher was absent on a particular school day. Back in those days, we did not have substitute teachers. Either another student from a higher grade led the class or the principal taught the class. They were reluctant for another student to try and teach any class I was in. Therefore, the principal, Mr. G. L. Washington--we always called him “Mr. G. L. Washington,” not “Mr. Washington”--came in to teach the class. Teachers must be healers.

  Mr. G. L. Washington began posing questions. The first was on history. No one answered. His question just hung out there. I looked around. No student raised a hand. I said to myself, “Maybe he doesn’t know he is not supposed to call on me.” I eased my hand up. Mr. G. L. Washington immediately called on me. I was shocked but I answered the question. Teachers must be healers.

  Mr. G. L. Washington asked another question. I waited for someone to answer. Then I looked around. No other student raised a hand. I eased my hand up and he called on me again. I answered the question. This routine continued throughout the day. I could not believe this was happening to me. Teachers must be healers.

  The next day, I was walking near the canteen, a tiny building from which candy, cookies, sodas, etc. were sold. I saw Mr. G. L. Washington standing in front of the canteen. When he saw me at a distance, he said, “Sanders, come here!” I thought, “He must have found out about me.” I came reluctantly. Mr. G. L. Washington put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Son, you are not what they say you are. You are a smart boy. From now on, I want you to act like it.” I was greatly relieved. Then I was truly joyful. Teachers must be healers.

  Mr. G. L. Washington resided in Mobile some 40 miles from Vaughan Jr. High School in Stockton, Ala. However, during the school week, he lived in the 'principal’s house' located across the road from the school. He went home on the weekends. As the time for the Mobile Mardi Gras approached, he told me that he was going to take me and two other boys to spend the weekend with him to experience Mardi Gras. Teachers must be healers.

  Mr. G. L. Washington was as good as his word; he took us to Mobile for the weekend. I really don’t remember a lot about the weekend. I don’t remember much about Mardi Gras. I don’t remember anything of the interactions with the other boys. However, I do remember that Mr. G. L. Washington cared enough to take me and the other boys to Mobile; to let us stay in his home; to expose us to Mardi Gras. Teachers must be healers.

  I was so impacted by Mr. G. L. Washington’s caring action, I began to heal. I started acting like a “smart child.” I didn’t know it at the time, but I needed to be healed in order to be taught. Mr. G. L. Washington initiated the healing process. When I eventually went to college, I majored in history in part because Mr. G. L. Washington had been a history major. I was touched because he cared. Teachers must be healers.

  We are all teachers. Mothers are teachers. Fathers are teachers. Co-workers are teachers. Friends are teachers. Leaders are teachers. Preachers are teachers. Teachers are teachers. Every time we pass on knowledge to another person, we are teachers. We must never forget that teachers must heal to teach effectively. Teachers must be healers.

EPILOGUE – We are all broken in some way. It may be emotionally. It may be mentally. It may be spiritually. It may be in some other way. We all need to be healed in some way. Teachers have to understand the brokenness in each of us and lend a healing touch. When we help heal, we enhance the impact of our teaching.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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