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Memories of a beloved teacher


Cake generosity: “I wonder if Miss Arthur ever thought that her action would be remembered so many years later.”

OUR memories are selective.

We know so very little about how the computer that is our brain functions. 

Why does one memory get stored and not others? 

Why does it surface just at specific moments of our lives from somewhere deep inside?

My school days were happy days. I remember Year 3 in particular. 

Our teacher was Miss Arthur. 

In those days female teachers had to resign when they married.

I have no idea how old Miss Arthur was. To me every adult was old in those days. But I was happy to have Miss Arthur as my teacher.

I even remember a lesson she gave on demonstrative pronouns, this and that. 

They were giants that she wove into a story that held me enthralled. 

Once I was given a message to take to another class. 

My chest swelled with pride to have been chosen for this important mission. 

Unfortunately, when only part way to that class, I had to return to say that I had forgotten what the message was.

She saved the situation by then writing it on a note for me to take.

I would have done anything for Miss Arthur. 

I must have driven her crazy with trying to be good.

One story surfaced for me the other day when I wanted to give an example of a good teacher. It had nothing to do with academia or good pedagogy. 

I was a little girl of eight in Miss Arthur’s class. 

It must have been nearing the end of the year as she was organising a Christmas party for our class. I was to bring a box of cakes as she knew that they were baked daily in our shop. 

When I announced this at home, my brother informed my mother that the party was not until a few weeks’ time. 

I vehemently insisted that it was tomorrow. 

Consequently, I was given a cake box filled with freshly baked cakes from our bakery that was situated underneath our shop in the city.

With pride, I presented them to Miss Arthur the next morning only to be told that I was a few weeks too early. I was a little deflated but not daunted.

Miss Arthur asked me the price of each cake. I had no idea. 

On ascertaining the price from my brother – they were a halfpenny each – she then sold the box of cakes and gave my brother the money to take home.

Miss Arthur did not have to do that. 

She could have let me take the cakes home but they would have been stale by then and therefore not sellable. 

I guess she could have let the class have them that day, but it was not the party day.

In those days the cakes would have been a real treat.

I wonder if Miss Arthur ever thought that her action would be remembered so many years later. 

This teacher evidently knew the children in her class. 

The times were tough – she helped the family as well as the children.

I wonder if she ever remembered this kind act that she did for our family.

My father died tragically the next Christmas holidays.

My life changed as I was then sent to board at St Rita’s and so began another chapter in my life. 

However, a few months into that year, Miss Arthur sent me a letter into which she had carefully placed a neatly folded handkerchief. 

The sister in charge of the little boarders asked me if I would like her to read that letter for me. 

I remember vehemently refusing, going off to a quiet corner by myself to read my own letter and having a little cry in private.

I kept that letter and handkerchief for a long time as well as my love and admiration for Miss Arthur. Emails and tissues would not have been the same.

I’m sure that many people can pull out from their memories similar stories from their school days. 

I have been blessed in that my memories have been pleasant ones from both schools that I attended. 

The memories that I have recorded are not major ones. They are just the simple stories of an eight-year-old. 

However, they demonstrate that children do have long memories. 

Unfortunately, today we hear much about the harmful and soul-destroying memories that some people experienced as children. 

The past is history and there is nothing we can do to change it. 

However, we can pray that God will heal their wounds and help them to bring good out of evil.

But the future is ours to mould. 

Let us ensure that we do not say or do anything that will have a negative effect on the children that God has entrusted to our care.

By Sr Elvera Sesta

Sr Elvera Sesta

Sr Elvera Sesta

Sr Elvera Sesta is a teacher at St Rita’s College, Clayfield. 

Written by: Guest Contributor
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