Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mrs. Marie Tye, A Teacher for The Times

Mrs. Marie Tye,
A Teacher for The Times

Mrs. Marie Tye, my 8th & 9th grade English teacher was my favorite overall. She possessed a number of qualities that made me feel that I was important. Not another student of the many she taught in her lifetime, but a student that she had confidence in and one worth teaching.
This was during a time in our country when teachers could actually mention God and the Bible in the classroom and not fear retribution. Morning prayers and the pledge of allegiance over the school intercom were daily rituals at school and no one was offended. This was all normal and no one believed their religious expressions were infringed on.
I was not brought up in an overtly Christian home so I had little understanding of biblical stories, books of the bible or things spiritual. I went to church off and on with friends that invited me but I didn’t have any knowledge of what it was all about. There was a picture of the Last Supper prominently displayed on the wall next to our kitchen table but that was the depth of what I knew.
Mrs. Tye was always dressed nicely and appropriately when she entered the classroom. She was no one’s fool as she had several children herself so trying to pull one on her was fruitless. Her facial expressions said it all. When she was perturbed at classroom commotion, she didn’t yell or threaten anyone with a trip to Mr. Havens, the school principal, where getting licks were unavoidable. She didn’t wave a board the size of Mt. Rushmore around as a warning. She simply would look at us and arch her left eye brow and silence would ensue. We knew! Mrs. Tye taught me that a lot can be said without saying it.
Mrs. Tye liked to test our knowledge on a number of subjects by having open quizzes. “Jeff, where can we find the Book of Deuteronomy?” she asked me. I was usually very good at these things, but I was stumped on this one. However, I took a stab at it and said, “In the library???” to which a portion of the class laughed. Mrs. Tye smiled at me and said” can anyone tell me where we can find the Book of Deuteronomy?” to which another female classmate correctly answered,” It is a book in the Old Testament in the Bible.” Mrs. Tye planted a seed in me that day about spiritual things broadening my horizons.
She also liked to conduct impromptu class spelling bees. I was an excellent speller and during elementary school I usually won most class spelling bees. On two occasions that I recall, only one of my classmates, Pat A. Phillips, could beat me when we had inter-class spelling bees. I was a visual speller, I could see the word in my mind, so I wasn’t prone to the rules such as I before e except after c. Although I relied heavily at times on my understanding of vowels, consonants, and syllables to get through, my visual ability was my salvation. If I had seen it, I could spell it.
One day the Book of Deuteronomy came back to haunt me in Mrs., Tye’s in class spelling bee. “Jeff” as she looked at me with a smile and look of re-assurance, “can you spell Deuteronomy?” Little did I know this would come back to me so soon. Trying to look as though I did my research by tracking down a Bible, I gave it a try by spelling it phonetically. “Du-Ta-Ra-On-Me Dutaraonme” it sounded and looked reasonable to me since we were talking about old things in the Bible. I was waiting for her to give me the eye brow arch of dissatisfaction, but true to her nature, she sweetly smiled, chuckled a bit at my attempt and asked the class if anyone could spell it. Again a female classmate got it correct. Must have been Pat A. Phillips! Mrs. Tye had taught me to not quit, keep trying, dig deeper to find the answers.
Mrs. Tye was the first teacher that I remember that had us memorize poetry. By this time in my education I had acquired a good memory of things and could use my visualization to learn. She usually gave us a week to memorize it and then each classmate would have to stand up and recite. One of the first poems I remember memorizing was Rudyard Kipling’s If:
IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
I memorized this by the end of the class in which she gave it. Mrs. Tye allowed me to stand up and recite it although I had a week to do so. I did so flawlessly to which she gave me the I knew you could do it smile. I didn’t win a trophy, plaque, or certificate for my efforts. Mrs., Tye aptly rewarded me with not only a poem with which I have leaned on through the years to remind me of where I come from and have been through, but a reward of satisfaction and confidence.
Mrs. Tye was the only teacher besides 2 others that were neighbors that came to our home to visit after my dad died suddenly of a heart attack on December 29th 1966. She showed me her humanness, compassion and concern that night as she reassured my mother now widowed with 5 school aged children that all would be well in time. Her devotion to her family, faith, friends, and a student named Jeff Riley, made her a Teacher for The times.

1 comment:

  1. Jeff...I am so impressed. The poem is now coming back to help you in these times of loss. I,like you,have lost my dad at a young age of 19. Fred was only 41 yrs old. A welder by trade,with a talent as amazing as my art is. If you looked up the word "workaholic"in the dictionary,my dad's name and picture would be there. This man was a perfectionist. Raised me to be one also,mostly...I am too hard on myself. Doing nothing just kills me...I wasn't brought up doing nothing,ever. When this economic depression hit,I injured my back severely,but I believe I hear the Lord better in a horizontal position. hahaha!I said all of that to say this:remember the things we were being taught and they appeared to be insignificant to us at the time? Now they come to the forefront of our minds like a proverbial rope to the endless pit of troubles that have overwhelmed us.You are going to make it,Jeff! WE will, together! Your question in FB started all if this,hahahahahahahahaha! and you backed me up in there. I love it! Iron sharpeneth Iron. Steve