You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.
~ Swami Vivekananda

We’ve all had teachers who have inspired us, who have made a difference to our lives.

Teachers have the power to make or break lives.

A great teacher can inspire a passion for a subject that lasts a lifetime, while lacklustre teaching can kill any desire for learning.

Teachers who make a significant difference in their students’ lives – sometimes against all odds – deserve to be celebrated. Miss Smith was that teacher for me in my repeat of 5th grade and throughout 6th grade.

She suspected and saw “the clues” of my abuse in her classroom every day. These are the very conditions that put so many people off teaching.

One of those days when I was sitting in the field rather than showing up for class, she came out to me, sat down and said “How can I get you to trust me and how can I help you?”

She used art to unlock my creativity and confidence, visited my home to understand my family life, and personally walked George and I home every Friday after school.

The house was just across the field, and she would walk us to the street, watch us cross, and then go back to school to finish up her work. So many times I wanted to run out of the house and back over to the school and ask her to take me home with her. George was settling in, and I could never leave him. At least not now.

Miss Smith improved my academic achievement and got me graduated from 6th grade.

She had no problem with expecting the same from me as she did from every other student. Twice a week she had lunch with me. Rather than go to the teacher cafeteria, she brought a sack lunch and we sat in the classroom, and talked. One day I told her that I had seen Al and Dottie fighting each other, beating each other up.

It’s great to say every child should have the same potential, however, you need to know the personal background and the lives of the children, and how different and complex they are. Every day that I saw her my face would light up. I knew she got me, that she was interested in me, that she was welcoming me, and that she appreciated me – and I would glow. She helped me communicate my feelings.

Miss Smith helped me establish my own character.

She helped to really challenge me and take me out of my comfort zone. The social skills I built up with her, being able to talk about my work confidently – that was a life skill. That is a life skill that every child needs. Still to this day, she was the most important teacher I ever had.

She took time to build a relationship with me.

She built trust with me.

We talked about the fact that I was an empathetic child and she knew what overstimulated me.

Empathic children don’t have the same mechanisms as non-empath children. Typically, society or schools don’t give these exceptional children much understanding.

Conventional physicians and teachers often label them as “shy,” “antisocial” or “fussy,” or they’re diagnosed with social phobia, an anxiety disorder, or depression.

In addition, they may be quieter, thoughtful, deep, and gentle rather than highly verbal or assertive–which others can perceive as withdrawn.

Miss Smith took on the role for two years in supporting my sensitivities, intuitions, creativity, wisdom, and in teaching me tools to cope with the world. As an empathic child, I received no support from my physician or parents about my sensitivities.

They didn’t know what an empath was and were never taught how to understand my special needs. Al called me “overly sensitive” and said that I needed a “thicker skin.”

These “helpful” comments made me believe there was something wrong with me.

Dotti was constantly saying there was something wrong with me and told people I was a crazy child. I felt misunderstood and invisible as an empathic child.

The year I graduated 5th grade Miss Smith and I celebrated with a cupcake after school. All the other kids were out on the playground running around and Miss Smith knew that was too much stimulation for me. She pulled out a cupcake from her drawer and we both sat on top of the desk watching everyone outside.

“I am proud of you Doretta and look forward to being your teacher next year. I think this year the most beautiful thing about being your teacher was that you taught me.”

She handed me my final report card and inside she had written to my parents:

‘It has truly been a pleasure getting to know your daughter this year. It has been a pleasure having the opportunity to work with Doretta.’

And now it was summer. No school. No safe place to be. While summer is a great time to go outside and have some fun in the sun, it’s also a time for things to go in the complete opposite direction.

The good news was George and I were going to go see Aunt Connie for two weeks and then go visit Aunt Dorothy in Washington for three weeks. Aunt Connie had moved away from Concord and now lived in a big trailer on some property with a lake that her and Uncle Chuck had purchased. It was heaven being away from the house and the visit to Aunt Dorothy was really cool.

Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair. ~ Susan Polis Schutz


How will your life be different in a year?