I loved elementary school. It was fun with all the getting of new clothes, pencils, crayons and erasers. The familiarity of walking the school halls, going to the gym/auditorium for various events and playing dodge ball on the play ground were good things for me.
In the second grade I was placed in Mrs. Billet's class. She was a good teacher. I remember learning to write in cursive in her class room.
One morning as we children flooded into the room and into our seats we all became uncomfortably aware that Mrs. Billet sat at her desk with her head down on her arms weeping rather noticeably.
We all sat in silence wondering what to do.
One boy, Burt was his name, ventured up to her desk and asked her what was wrong.
Mrs. Billet sat up, straightened her shoulders, ran a hand through her hair and blew her nose.
"I will tell you." she said.
"Last night as I was driving home from school, something ran out into the road in front of my car" (seeing the shocked looks on her young pupils she quickly interjected) "I'm so thankful it was not a man or woman or a boy or a girl or a cat or a dog, but I ran over a chicken."
And with that she laid her head in her arms and began to weep again.
Burt stood there wondering what to do. He decided to sit back down.
We all sat and waited.
And waited some more.
Finally gathering her strength, Mrs. Billet, sat up again and took a deep breath. Very seriously she said to the class, "Children, I hope none of you ever have to know the horrors of killing a living thing."
I really didn't understand what all her fuss was about. I was familiar with chickens dying. Our neighbors, the Watson's had butchered a bunch of chickens. They'd chop their heads off, (and what horrifying fun it was to watch the eyes blink on a body-less chicken or watch a headless chicken run a few paces) dip them in boiling water and pull the feathers off. Chickens dying were a fact of life to me.
On another occasion we came to class and she handed all of us a piece of paper and told us to draw a big beautiful tree. When the assignment was finished she tearfully told how some men had came to her mothers house and had had to chop down a big beautiful tree that she would swing in when she was a girl.
Now, that I could relate to. I, too was a lover of big beautiful trees, especially of the Weeping Willow variety and would have been sad to lose a beloved tree. There was a beautiful Weeping Willow tree in the neighbors yard that we played under a lot in the summer.
Years later, my mother and I were looking through school pictures and we came across my class picture from the 2nd grade. I told my mother that Mrs. Billet had been one of my favorite teachers and she commented on what an emotional woman she was. Apparently when my mother had went for her parent/teacher conference Mrs. Billet wept about some troubles she was having to my mother.
She still goes down in the teacher hall of fame for me. She was real people and I have decent cursive hand writing because of her.