10: My Mother, My Teacher

10: My Mother, My Teacher

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

My Mother, My Teacher

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates.

The great teacher inspires.

~William Ward

It is often said that the best teachers are those who are able to form a genuine relationship with their students. This was never a problem for my second-grade teacher, as she viewed all of her students as family. Of course, in my case, it was actually true, because my second-grade teacher was my mother.

I know that in many schools this would not be allowed, but I attended a Lutheran school in a small town. At the time, I was not so sure it was a good thing to have my own mother as my teacher, but I was only in second grade—what did I know?

I won’t lie and say the year was easy. At times, there were difficulties starting the school day with a clean slate as teacher and student when there had been an issue at home as mother and son. The same can be said for after school when my mother just happened to know every little thing that happened during the school day. At times, it could be confusing to determine whether I was talking to my teacher or my mother.

My mother decided to move me up to the third-grade reading class. I used to joke that it was simply because she wanted me out of her classroom for part of the day, but I knew better. She had too much respect for education to do such a thing. The faith she had in me to challenge my reading stuck with me as I began to share my mother’s love of books. Looking back at my life, it is easy for me to see that the year with my mother as my teacher was the point when books became a central component of my life—first reading, and later, writing.

Even as she was in the hospital dying of cancer, my mom was teaching me. I will always cherish the conversations we had in those last few weeks. In spite of everything, my mother, the teacher, still made me check in to see how her students were doing as the school year wrapped up. She also continued to press me about my future writing projects to make sure that I never gave up on my dreams, as well as checking that the plots all made sense. Even as it became clear that the end was close, she was working to make sure that everything from the funeral plans to the bills was in order. The example she set in those last days, as she never wavered in putting others first, taught me more about living a life of faith than any other lesson I have ever learned.

I’ll always remember and cherish that about her: She was a pure teacher. She didn’t do it because it was expected of her, but because she was called to teach. She didn’t do it because it was easy, but because it was hard, and she was gifted. She didn’t do it because of the money, but because it was vital. Few things made my mom smile more than a former student’s success in life. She was always able to look back to remember her former students and share stories with them about their time in her class. Every Christmas, our tree and house would become a walk down memory lane for my mom. The smile wouldn’t leave her face until all of the decorations from students had been placed properly around the house. That was her pure love of teaching.

I know that some people might balk at the idea of having their mother as a teacher as I did at first, but looking back I can tell you I am grateful for that opportunity. In fact, she was my best teacher. She taught me in the classroom, but I also had the privilege of her teaching me every single day of my life. While telling time and counting change are important lessons, they pale in comparison to the lessons Mom taught me about faith, love, and family. Those lessons were at the core of who she was and are cornerstones of my beliefs because of her. She was my favorite and best teacher, and she never stopped teaching me those lessons, right up to the very end.

~David L. Bishop

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