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The Old Fanatic Died Last Week.

The Old Fanatic Died Last Wee

   i

   A quiet graveside ceremony marked the end of her seventy-four years
      in the community.
   A minister read from The Trick Is to Keep Breathing, quoted the
      twenty-third Psalm, and lowered his head in prayer.
   A friend glanced toward the heavens as the body was lowered into
      the ground.
   A former student wondered if her long nights were worth the ignoble
      end.
   A companion from the nursing home looked aimlessly at the ground.
   A family member dried her eyes as she glanced back a final time.
   A stranger stood silently as others walked away.
   A former colleague smiled as she thought of her energy, enthusiasm,
   empathy, and courage.

   ii

   An indifferent few in the common room commented on her final years.
   A fusspot demanded, "I want her room after it's emptied and
      cleaned.
      I should have had it all along."
   A cynic murmured, "Take everything as far as I'm concerned. I'm
      glad she's gone. She was too emotional: too open with her
      tears, too generous with her means, too forthright with her
      views, too passionate about her ideals, too tender with the
      young. But all of that was put-on. She never did anything for
      me."
   A housekeeper added, "She was really just a nutcase, someone who
      wanted to create other 'educated people'--fanatics--to ruin our
      community. I heard people talk about her, but I wasn't impressed.
      She didn't do anything but mess up the bed and floor. Stank like
      the custodian's breath."
   A frequent visitor commented, "She thought she was helping the
      powerless and promoting respect and justice. She tried to excite
      students but was just a bore."
   A new arrival wondered, "Is she the one who fought with the school
      administration? Didn't she have any commonsense?"
   A resident questioned, "She used to talk about what she taught and
      how she initiated students into reflection and imagination. Did
      she ever reflect on the fact that we thought she was an idiot?!"
   A grandmother injected, "We need more like her. I trusted her with
      my children and grandchildren. She was interested in them, not
      just earning a salary. She led them to think for themselves and
      care for others."

   iii

   A staffroom filled as educational colleagues shared a break and
      spoke
      of her final teaching years.
   A supervisor observed, "She didn't listen. Never would accept
      advice."
   A director claimed, "You couldn't force her to use the curriculum
      guides."
   An administrator exhaled, "She was one of the worst--insubordinate,
      subversive, untamable."
   An admirer countered, "She cared deeply for her students,
      profoundly for the subjects that she taught. Educationally, she
      was worth ten of our average teachers."
   A somewhat puzzled trainee observed, "Well, she's out of everyone's
   way now. So who cares what she did or didn't do?"
   A long timer noted, "Thankfully, we replaced her long ago with
   someone who does what she's told."
   A friend inserted, "Oh, she wasn't that bad. If we had let her use
      her mind and gifts, she would have been fine. She'll be
      remembered long after we are forgotten."
   A retiree added, "Yeah. Kids were prepared to think, discuss, and
      write when they left her courses. How many of us were that
      successful?"

   iv

   A group of friends reminisced about the passing of an icon.
   A shopkeeper observed, "The obituary didn't mention that she had
      ruined the lives of seven million families by requiring that her
      pupils study for her tests and rewrite papers on weekends!"
   A maitre d' exclaimed, "Or that she expected us to attend parent
      conferences and school meetings!"
   A mother noted, "And that she gave us Fs if we didn't work with our
   children on their--her--projects!"
   A barman sighed, "I hated it when she'd say, 'Anyone can get
      pregnant or inject sperm. It takes reflective parents to hatch
      some worthwhile ideas and dispositions in their children.'"
   A wag noted, "She should have been more comfortable with ignorance
      and incompetence, especially Doug's and mine!"
   A police officer remembered, "She did more for Roberto than anyone
      except his marathon coach. I can't thank her enough."
   A hairstylist claimed, "If it hadn't been for her, Letitia wouldn't
      have gone to university. She'd still be standing on the corner."
   An car mechanic said, "She helped create in Melanie a sense of
      pride in who she was and whatever she did, not just in the
      school things."

   v

   A small group paused before returning to their everyday affairs.
   An accountant admitted, "She was a pain, but I never doubted that
      she pushed me for my own good. It was."
   An engineer ruminated, "She's the only teacher I had who gave me a
      lousy grade. She claimed it was because I was in an academic
      coma and that my essay proved it!"
   A nurse noted, "Her standards were ludicrous. She was too strict,
      too demanding, but I learned a lot and finally graduated."
   And a barrister confessed, "She was a witch with words, but a
      wizard
   when it came to getting you to think, question, inquire, and
      argue."
   An electrician gushed, "She changed my life by who she was--caring,
      honest, forthright, humble. Never met another teacher who was
      so genuinely selfless."
   A chef noted, "She was so much better than "Easy A" MacDumb. Now
      he's the retiring assistant director of education. Work that one
      out."
   A coach whispered, "I often wished she'd stroke my ego and let me
   get on with my game. But that wasn't her way."
   A doctor mused, "I remember the time she said I'd end up in the
      cemetery if I didn't learn that there's more to life than a
      snort and a quart. But there's more to teaching than putting
      students down."
   A professor chuckled, "I expected her to rise up out of the coffin
      and say, 'Scot, argue with me like you would if I were your
      mother, a sister, or a rival. Put more passion, evidence, and
      reasoning into your comments!'"

   vi

   A caretaker mumbled, "She was just an old teacher, I guess. She
      must have worked too much and lived too long. And earned too
      little from the looks of that coffin."


J. D. Sabiston

Orkney University
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Author:Sabiston, J.D.
Publication:Journal of Thought
Article Type:Poem
Date:Sep 22, 2009
Words:1021
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