Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thank You Mrs. Brody

Fourth Grade Days at Alice Smith             
Ever Had a Teacher Who Kept You in the Palm of Her Hand?

If you had ever known Mrs. Brody, you'd remember her.  Oh what a tall, resolute, strong willed gal was she.  One could not help but notice her long, dark brown hair.  At least everyone imagined it was because we never saw her wear those locks loosely, or down.  Rather, she routinely swept that hair up in a bun atop her crown.  When I was a child female teachers were required to wear dresses or suits.  In fact pants were not allowed to be worn by any women on the school staff, including the secretaries, cooks, therapists, or our Principal.  We recognized that while Mrs. Brody's outfits were always clean, most were old, mismatched, or rather shabby.  Fall, winter, or spring time were all the same in that this woman was never without some sort of sweater.  Her glasses were always perched on her wide face in a rather menacing manner; to look at her one could imagine all kinds of uneasy things.  The lady was downright unpleasant to look at.
Mrs. Brody’s world was comprised of measured, exacting routines and her classroom was always  orderly.  Everything was in the proper place and therefore she was able to conduct lessons with few  interruptions.  None of her pupils could ever recall that she was ill or absent from class.  It was a fact; the expected and unexpected events of the day never deterred the woman.  She consistently reached out to her pupils, her parents, dealt with her Principal, and of course with her colleagues.  She was at school early and stayed late.  It was well known that Mrs. Brody graded all papers that were assigned to each pupil in red pen.  The evaluated work was promptly returned to her young charges for further corrections and she made it clear that all assignments were expected to go home for parents to see.  

This lady handled both adults and children in a firm, direct manner.  Yes, Mrs. Brody was all business.  Everything about the way she created, conducted, and then wrapped up her lessons was meticulous.  Whether she was working one-on-one with a pupil, immersed in a small group reading lesson, or was up at the chalkboard giving extra practice to a child, we all knew this lady was squeezing every moment out of the day for kids.  Her conversations were pristine and few student comments or happenings ever escaped Mrs. Brody's ear or watchful gaze.  Likewise her opinions were presented quickly, especially if she felt that you needed that "necessary" word from her.  After all she was the teacher who was responsible for her pupils and their learning. 

Well recognized in the hallways of Alice Smith Elementary was the fact that Mrs. Brody faithfully read to youngsters directly after lunch and noon recess.  The woman was a master storyteller.  Each book Mrs. Brody shared with the class “came alive.” Her students recognized that the moments she immersed them in a tale were the finest ones of the entire day.  Yes everyone, from the silliest acting girl to the most rough and tumble fellow who fancied himself a football star, they all looked forward to what she'd prepared to read aloud.  Her children dashed in from the playground, rushing from the far corners of the grassy field to the asphalt pavement in the school yard the moment she blew that whistle.  The shrill noise cut through the air, disrupting all play but it meant that recess was officially over.  It was time to line up and go inside, time for the story.  No child would dare ignore Mrs. Brody's summons because who would want to be late?  Indeed her pupils were eager to quickly settle back into the classroom so she could begin  reading.  The woman was captivating and from the moment she opening the book; Mrs. Brody had each and every listener right in the palm of her hand. 

Later in the afternoon when lessons were over and the day was winding down, all her young charges knew exactly what to do in preparing to exit the building.  She expected them to promptly gather books, shoe carriers, coats, and personal belongings.  Mrs. Brody stood at the classroom door to see that everyone was prepared to leave the room quietly and swiftly.  There was no disruptive talk, no pushing, and personal items were rarely forgotten or left behind by her students.  

Yet as each pupil walked past Mrs. Brody at the doorway of their small classroom, she embraced them.  Before they went past her into the hallway she quietly whispered “good night,” and sometimes gave them a wink. When any of the youngsters shyly responded “I love you” into her ear, she would always answer back, “And I love you too.”  

It seems like just yesterday that we counted on seeing Mrs. 

Brody,  that tall, stern but a loving figurehead at Alice Smith 

Elementary.  You see, she was my fourth grade teacher; I was 

Rosemary Ann Nelson back then.  Indeed I was one of the 

youngsters in her room that needed an ordinary, safe, fair, 

challenging, and enriching day.  My fellow classmates and I 

longed to hear her read us stories  in those early 

moments of school day, Minnesota afternoons.  She made an 

important impression that remains with me now and

probably will, forever.            ~Rose West