Dear Dr. Laura,
I cried, scared to death when I found out I was going to have a 'man' for my 6th grade teacher, but for me, Mr. Davis was life changing. At the time I did not know we were his first class. He had asked and gotten permission to do a different style of teaching. He tables set up with different academics at each table. About every 50 min, a bell would go off and we would change tables. We got to work at our own pace. He joked around, but kept us in line.
I was a smart child, but in first grade, I had a teacher who was 'tormenting' me. She locked me in a closet because I brought lunch from home. She called me names, picked me up by my ankles and shook me (upside down in a dress) because I didn't know a word from my Dick and Jane book, etc. I never told my mother because the teacher was our next door neighbor. In front of my mother, she would hug me and tell my mom 'what a good girl I was, her best student', what a confusing message.
So throughout my school years, I was very quiet, never wanting to bring any attention to myself. If a teacher called on me to 'read aloud' or to answer a question, I would freeze! I would start shaking and always start crying. I could NOT speak up in class - I could not speak, not one word. I didn't know why until I was an adult.
However, Mr. Davis, he knew there was a problem. He was always kind and soft spoken to me. One day he asked me to stay after school. He sat me down and told me I was one of his smartest students (who ME??). He asked me what was wrong. I didn't know at the time. But that talk he gave me, and the time he took to try to help me throughout the year, always stuck with me. I cried when I had to leave and go on to Jr. High school, I did not want to leave him behind. What a change a year made.
I went back and saw him 25 years later. To my surprise, he remembered me. The first thing he said was, "Of course I remember you. You were one of my smartest kids". I told him about my first grade teacher and he acknowledged he could tell something had happened and he tried to help. I believe he helped me quite a bit just by giving me the word 'smart' that I carry with me in the back of my mind.