Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Teacher George"

Personal losses continue to mount, it seems. I received word on Tuesday that “Teacher George”, the Pre/K Special Day Class teacher at one of my school sites, passed away at home over the Easter Break. Of the many professional relationships I have had over the past seven and a half years with this school district, George was an exception in that he strayed beyond that, into the realm of friendship.

He was a crazy Scottish transplant, who by some strange twist of events ended up going to University in Fresno and never moved back home after finding a job here as a Special Education Teacher. He had no family ties State-side that he mentioned, only his mother back home. She passed away a few years ago, and he had not been back there since. Always talked about it, though.

He had many hobbies, not the least of which were photography and a host of arts and crafts ranging from macramé to silk screening. In earlier years, he frequented craft shows with his wares in various parts of Central California. The photography showed up in his classroom with digital printed pictures posted on the walls of his current students taking part in daily activities.

He also loved the performing arts, and spent considerable time going to plays, musicals, and orchestras in London and the Bay Area. You could aptly call him a performing arts aficionado, as he could talk for hours about the relative strengths and weaknesses of various shows or performing castes.

George’s teaching style was somewhat unconventional at times, but his students tended to make progress beyond what was anticipated. With them, he was a gentle teddy bear who nonetheless had expectations for them to meet, and they adored him. Gentle was probably the best way to describe him, in fact. That said, he was not beyond complaining and muttering in Gaelic (and English) when he was out of ear shot of young and impressionable minds. This was with good reason as many of his students tended to skew toward the more challenging variety. At any rate, I tended to get a share of his venting sessions, most likely because I was willing to listen.

George was gentle, passionate, and at the heart of it all, lonely. It seemed to me that, while he lived for his ‘kids’ in his classroom and enjoyed shows and dabbling with technology, he was always searching for something to fill a void. I knew that if I went into his classroom in the afternoon after his students left, I was probably not going to be able to get away until late. But I did it anyway because I COULD, and I felt as though being a sounding board for him might have helped a little. He never said as much, but after a while his eyes would start to twinkle more and he would start to laugh more readily and heartily. He had a great cackle.

That said, I feel as though I did not do my best for him, and that I let him down. Not once, but twice, I felt convicted that he was someone God put ‘in my way’ for a purpose… And I did not live that way – plain and simple. This is probably why I feel so heavy and empty right now. I know he is not hurting or lonely anymore, and that he can finally rest and not have to worry about getting to work on time Monday mornings… But… Here I am again, trying to look at myself in the mirror.

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