Journey To Fulfillment

Journey To Fulfillment
Author Theresa Franklin

Inspired by a Teacher
One year during an in-service at the beginning of school, the administration showed a film called The Zero. It was about a middle school boy who stepped off the school bus, laid down in the snow, and died. Not one teacher remembered him, even though he had gone to the school since kindergarten. Watching that film, I saw myself. I was a barely above average student even though I was far more capable. It never occurred to me that if I studied, my B average could be higher. My behavior was appropriate. I was quiet and reserved. The only thing I was reprimanded for was reading in class instead of completing an assignment. I doubt that any teacher would remember me. The only teacher conference my parents had was in the fourth grade. Their concern? I was not interested in anything except reading. The teacher’s answer? “She will be fine. Don’t worry.”
I have very few memories of school. Basically, school was uneventful for me. I moved from grade to grade almost in a fog. I remember being nervous to go to junior high school, but other than that my only significant memory was going to the library.
Junior high was as uneventful as elementary school until the ninth grade. The ninth grade math teacher, Mr. Mettetal, noticed me immediately. He liked me as a person and a student. That was the first time any teacher had noticed me. He greeted me when I walked in the room and took the time to talk to me when I completed my assignments. The tone of his voice was different when he spoke to me. I felt special for the first time.  He recognized that I was not working to my potential and proceeded to encourage me to do better. Placing a test on my desk, he would say, “I expect a one hundred, Theresa.” At that point my mind would go completely blank, and I would forget everything he had taught. I wanted to please him and looked forward to going to his class. For the first time a teacher’s opinion of me was important. I excelled in his class, understanding all but one concept. When he taught negative numbers, I could not comprehend the concept. In my mind there was nothing below zero, so how could there be negative numbers? The other students could not understand why I didn’t get it. I tell my students that it was before I opened a checking account and now I understand it perfectly. The following year I returned to the campus on Parent/Teacher night to visit Mr. Mettetal. He said, “Are you making straight A’s? You could, you know.” I thought, No, I didn’t know that. No one had ever told me that. No one had ever recognized that I had the potential to make more than average grades.
I proceeded through high school the same way I had gone through elementary and junior high school. I did excel in cosmetology my junior and senior year. I received my state cosmetology license the week before graduation. Graduation was on Friday night, and I went to work on Saturday morning, never intending to go to college. A few months after graduation, I enrolled in a private cosmetology school to obtain my teaching license. There I discovered how much I enjoyed teaching.
Through a series of events, I enrolled in a small Baptist college in January of 1972, majoring in education. College was a struggle at times. If I did not understand something and asked a question, I was told, “You should have learned that in high school.” How could I explain that I went through school in a fog and everything I learned was incidental? I learned to hide my ignorance and research my questions in private.
In January 1973, I left college to get married with the intention of entering the local university where we would be living. My husband was not comfortable with the idea of me attending the large university, and to keep peace in our home, I decided not to enroll.
When our oldest son was in the first grade, he told me about an incident that happened at school that day. I felt that the way the teacher had handled the situation had humiliated the other child. The Lord spoke to my heart it was time to do for other children what one teacher had done for me. The next September I enrolled our younger son in kindergarten, placed our daughter in daycare, and went back to college. I had a desire to teach first grade because I wanted to help children begin school on a positive note and feel good about themselves and their accomplishments. The thought of a child being in school for nine or ten years before feeling special was too difficult to bare.
College was much easier this time. I was in classes three days a week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, after my husband left for work and the boys left for school, I cleaned house and then began studying. Our daughter was a very quiet child. She would lie on the floor coloring with crayons while I studied. By the time everyone arrived home, I was finished being a student and ready to be wife and mom again.
While I was in college, the company who employed my husband conducted its second workforce reduction in two years. This time my husband lost his job. To support us after the job loss, he worked construction for a much lower rate of pay than we were accustomed. We struggled my final year of college. I had been given a scholarship from American Business Women of America for one semester. However, every time I sat down in class to take a test, I would think, ABWA paid for this. I can’t let them down. The added stress was not worth the scholarship, and I did not apply for it my final semester. When I completed college, I was offered a job teaching Early Childhood in Special Education. It was not the job I wanted. But we needed a steady income, so I accepted the position.
Every year on the first day of school, I prayed, Lord, let me be an encouragement to at least one student this year like one teacher was for me. Every year I seemed to fall in love with the student no one else liked. I once read a thought in Our Daily Bread that so inspired me I wrote it on a piece of paper and kept it on the wall behind my desk. It said, “If they deserved our love, they wouldn’t need our love.” I tried hard to live by that and show love to the most unlovable child in the room.
The first year of teaching was horrible. A kindergarten teacher decided to “help” me by telling me exactly how to teach my class. Some of the things she told me to do did not work with my special needs children, so I abandoned her ideas. She was a person who felt the need for control and did not appreciate my lack of enthusiasm. She began to make my life miserable by undermining my authority with students and telling the staff incorrect information about me. , I was a first year teacher who needed a lot of guidance, and went to the principal’s office often to ask questions. Each time, after I had finished talking, he would ask, “Is that all?” I would say “yes.” He would ask, “Are you sure?” I never could understand why he asked me that. I wondered if my facial expression was giving him the idea that I had something else to say and tried not to look as confused as I felt.
The week before Christmas break, I had reached my limit with the lies and cutting remarks. I determined that when the students left at the end of the day, I would notify the principal that I would not be returning after the holidays. At noon I told one of the students that it was time to go to the nurse’s office for his medication. As he got to the door, he turned to me and said, “Mrs. Franklin, I love you.” He opened the door, took one step out and turned back to me and said, “Mrs. Franklin, thank you.” Conviction gripped my heart. I felt like the Lord was saying, “I didn’t put you here for the teachers or administrators. I put you here for the students, and you cannot leave them.” People have asked me why the student was thanking me. I say, “I don’t know. It didn’t matter. It was the Lord’s way of letting me know that I was where I belonged.”

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