My sixth grade teacher died yesterday after a battle with cancer. I didn't know she was sick and I feel bad not having taken the opportunity over the years to tell her she had made a difference to me. And she did make a difference.
She was the first teacher I had that resonated with me as a type of fairy god-mother. She would grant us special time or objects for good work, and rather than punish us for bad behavior we just felt guilty for letting her down. She had a way of loving us all that made it impossible to not love each other in turn.
One very specific memory I have has shaped the way I look at fear, and the way I've faced it since.
It was Spring, and an afternoon shower had popped up. Growing up where I did storms rarely got very severe, but this one had a ton of lightning and wind and was very loud. One boy in our class sat, tears streaming down his face, frozen with fear of the violence outside. The whole class wanted to tease him- you could see it all on our cruel pre-adolescent faces. But before we had the chance our teacher called him up to her desk, sat him on her lap, put her arms around him and said, "I'm right here. You're ok. You can cry as much as you need, sometimes it helps."
Class stopped for the duration of the storm. We just sat there waiting for it to pass. He sat on her lap for a while longer, and when it was all over he got up, wiped off his face with a tissue, and went back to his desk.
And we moved on to spelling.