A Day in the Life- A Teacher

Have you had yours today ?

Always in my heart…

by Lynda Rill

No teacher should ever have to experience the death of a student. . .

In my life’s work of teaching, I have experienced it, though,— four times.

In my first year of teaching, Dawn was my classroom and after-school helper. She and I both benefited from the relationship.  We spent many afternoons together, after the rest of the students had left for the day—she, cleaning the chalk boards and straightening the room, me, grading the latest set of social studies tests and English journals.  Sometimes we’d chat, sometimes we’d enjoy a companionable silence. I’d drive her home afterwards.  You could do things like that back then.

I married the next year and moved far away from that Connecticut town.  One day my mother called me on the phone and reported that Dawn’s body had been found in a field, halfway between school and home.  Murdered.

Robin entered my life at an exclusive private school in Tennessee. She loved to write, especially poetry, and she wrote beautifully.  Robin was small and frail, suffering from cystic fibrosis. We all knew that her life, even at age 13, had a finite end. It came the second year I knew her.  Her poetry lived on.

Bree didn’t begin school that year with the rest of her 7th grade classmates. She was in New York City, being treated for the cancer that had first been diagnosed when she was in second grade. A valiant fighter, she attended school that year from time to time (maybe 8 or 10 days in all), whenever her health and treatments allowed. She always asked what work she had missed, and how she could make it up. I always told her.

One of my colleagues said he didn’t want to get to really know her, as death seemed inevitable, and might come soon, and that would be too hard to take.

We all grieve, and prepare for grief, in different ways.

For me, on the few days she did attend school, I bent down and looked fully into her sparkling brown eyes.  I wanted her to be someone I’d never forget-that, in part, would be the measure of her young life-my knowing her, my remembering her.

Bree didn’t die that year.  She fought the cancer valiantly for two more years.  In her short life, she inspired her teachers and her peers.

Watching TV one morning, I heard a name, a name unusual enough that I thought it HAD to be one of my former students. He’d been in an altercation outside a restaurant, called to the scene by his girlfriend, who felt she was being harassed by another patron. Soon his high school graduation picture flashed on the screen, the handsome, grown-up version of the little second grader I’d loved, confirmed. It was Wes. Stabbed to death at 18.

A great kid, a star athlete, a good student, a kind person -that’s what the reporters were saying. I was thinking — a wonderful little guy with great style, especially for a 7 year old, beaming smile, beautiful blue eyes, eager to learn all there was to learn, a beloved only child, adored by his parents.

I stood in line for three hours to pay my respects.   There were that many people there to honor him.  When I reached his parents, I thought I’d need to introduce myself. To my surprise, his mom reached out and hugged me, saying, “Mrs. Rill! Wes always loved you.”

I responded, “I always loved Wes.”

That’s the way it is…they take away a piece of our hearts.

Note from Wendy McCance:

I know this is a sensitive subject, especially with the recent events that have unfolded in this country.  What I hope you take away from this article is that there are some incredible teachers who take care of our children each day in their classes.  I have felt so grateful for some of the teachers my own children have had over the years.  

All too often teachers are not given enough respect for what they do for these kids each day in their classrooms.  These teachers are teaching with their hearts on their sleeves.  They are wonderful, encouraging and caring individuals.  The next time you speak with one of your child’s teachers, please thank them and let them know how much you appreciate all they do.

Thank you Lynda Rill for sharing your experience.  If you are a teacher, thank you for all you do for our children.

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Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 6 local papers online, including the Oakland Press.The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]

11 thoughts on “A Day in the Life- A Teacher

  1. Nice re-blog Wendy. People need to know that teachers have a place in their children’s lives and that they make an impact. So much is left up to teachers these days, it’s as if the parents hand over the responsibility of rearing the child.

  2. Thanks for this-some time ago I received a communication from someone I taught 35 years ago. In it she described how she’d handled some pretty serious challenges in life using the things I’d taught her. I never once set out to do a lesson on sincerity, compassion and forgiveness but these were some of the areas she said I had shown her.
    It ain’t what you do…who it’s who you are that counts.

    • How incredibly wonderful that she remembered all the lessons you taught her, by example, —from 35 years ago! Notice she didn’t say “I remember pg. 56 in the textbook,” or “I remember question #3 on the standardized assessment test”—she remembered YOU!!!
      Teachers DO make a difference in their students’ lives, just as they make a difference in ours.

  3. Oh, how beautiful!! Thank you for remembering good teachers who REALLY care about our children in such a loving way. Not all teachers are this way, but I hope that we place more like you and others in our nation’s classrooms who really truly love children.

    Thanks so much for bending down and looking into Bree’s eyes!

  4. I know exactly what you mean. Having taught for over 20 years and then been an elementary school counselor (I taught every class in the school of 850) and handled every death… understand. We had parent’s killed in the military, one time 2 in one week, wee had Jimmy in 3rd grade killed by flipping truck and not having on seatbelt, same class a girls mother was murdered 2 weeks later and the teacher lost both of her parents within a month of each other… and of course the cancer children… (I had not been diagnosed myself yet)… I follow these kids all their lives. I really think some don’t realize that, but I’ve had many come up to me and ask if I remembered them… :D …. It is sad, cuz we feel like they are ours.. and being a counselor, I had all 850 from Kindergarten through 6th grade… I know them well, and have been to more funerals than I even want to think about. Good post, though it does make me think again of each one over all the years…. I did have some really great success stories too though and have had several find me only to tell me I really made a difference in their lives…. I think this is something people don’t understand about teachers, or maybe we are just different. Great Blog! :D

  5. An amazing teacher, especially to bond with and give love to a little girl who she knew would not live long. The pain that child must have gone through to feel people distance themselves rather than be hurt I’m sure was soothed by this one teacher.

    • Thank you so much. Bree was blessed to have other teachers who cared deeply for her as well, including a wonderful young man who taught social studies that same year. Her classmates and their families, many of whom had known her since second grade, greatly supported her right up until her death. Luckily, I think she felt acceptance rather than the pain of isolation. My “takeaway” from Bree was the HOPE she always had-asking for her assignments. A powerful lesson to learn from a 12 year old.

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