She prays As she crochets, Forming no words... Simply holding in her heart Those who need God’s special touch Of love. Ada Schrock
After thirty years it is time to say thank-you to my favorite schoolteacher. How can I put into two words the direction set for a lifetime? Now that I am nearing forty and have a family of my own, I often relive my own childhood with my children.
If you have a hard time remembering me, think of a short, skinny girl with two braids that always frizzled. I was more tomboy than proper lady and had a runny nose most winters. My two older sisters had more connections and friends at school, and I usually tagged along.
School! There is a golden bubble surrounding my grade school days that I carry around with me daily. I have mostly forgotten the names of the other children, but a few things I will never forget:
Teachers. I can remember the name of every teacher in the school, even the substitutes. I respected them all. However, I can honestly say I loved you best. You had bad eyes already then, even thicker glasses than mine, and I sat near the front of the classroom to see the chalkboard. With three grades in one room, you had the challenge of keeping everyone occupied, and did you ever succeed!
Nature. When you told us you would give a penny for every new wildflower we brought in and identified, you gave me a goal I am still pursuing. At first I thought of the pennies (in the 1980s pennies still bought candy!) but by the time I passed seventy species, I was completely enthralled, comparing the limp specimens with your flower field guides. How I remember the proud moment when you counted out eighty-seven pennies, by far the most in the class! I love gardening now, and so do my children.
Singing. You taught us songs out of a skinny yellow book, and I still remember the words for many: “Faith of our Fathers Living Still,” “Men and Children Everywhere,” and “Be Thou My Vision.” I have no idea whether or not I even sang along at the time, but I sing a lot with my children now.
Reading. What secure moments on the braided rug at the back of the classroom! The rows of slim paperback books that for some reason always beckoned brighter than the hardcover ones. Such friends as the The Littles (yes, the whole series), Clyde Robert Bulla books, The Bobbsey Twins, Stuart Little, and many others. Then there were the worn hardback biographies about Benjamin Franklin or Dolly Madison.
Nothing transformed the school day more than your hand at the blackboard writing Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) or Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). These were by far my favorite acronyms; nothing appealed to me more than this interruption to the class day. How often now they interrupt my housework!
The brightest part of the day, however, was when you read aloud. Perhaps it was because you read so well, or because we had no television or computer at home to clutter my imagination, or maybe just because you chose such good books. Whatever the reason, these stories have remained with me.
I was Laura Ingalls barefoot on the prairie, looking for gophers as you read the Little House books. I was in the barrel sailing to San Francisco as a stowaway, or a carefree gypsy with Sid Fleischmann’s rollicking tales. I saw the Indian behind the tree in Bread and Butter Indian. Dozens of classics and characters became part of me. When you finished A Wrinkle in Time our fifth grade class spontaneously clapped, and you told us we were the first class to applaud a selection. Every day my husband or I read aloud to our children. We scour our library and used book websites to find and repeat your winning collection.
Nature. Singing. Reading. So many children around me hardly know the joys of these wholesome activities. What will they have to draw on when they are parents?
Pray, Ada, pray! Pray as you crochet, for I am sure your good work in this world is not over yet. Not even thick glasses help you to see now, but your hands guide you from hook to thread. Pray, Ada, pray! Our world is unraveling. Can I pick up the stitches you gave me to pass on? I hope so.