Hey, Mr. Silverman!
Some people are better with compliments than others. It depends on your level of self-esteem, I guess. Everyone remembers Sally Field’s reaction to winning an Oscar many years ago: “You like me. You really like me!”
Why people should make so much fun of her reaction doesn’t seem fair. Even if one is very talented at what one does doesn’t mean that one feels particularly comfortable at being recognized as special in that specific field.
Over a lifetime of deeply-rooted and unconscious feelings of self-loathing, I’d like to think that I’m changing, if only a little. In the past, if ever admiration came my way, my reaction would always be more than self-deprecating, I would deflect said appreciation quickly and efficiently; I would never let it reach my heart, such were my hidden feelings about myself.
This past week has been a busy one for me. On Thursday evening of last week, while shopping at a lighting store, someone broke into my car in the store’s dimly-lit parking lot and took my shoulder bag with my wallet in it. I like to walk around unencumbered and didn’t yet know that thieves, using a sensor, can detect a lithium battery, which was the power source of my little Kobo e-reader. Now, of course (as if I shouldn’t have known already) everyone is telling me, “Never leave anything in your car!” Well, duh, except I had gotten used to leaving my bag in my car if I could avoid it.
So, besides my wallet and everything in it – credit cards, Medicare card, driver’s license – and my e-reader, I also lost my reading glasses, cell phone, two books of personal cheques and my debit card. So you can imagine the scrambling necessary to straighten the ship.
Today, one week later, I’ve got one of my two credit cards back, a new wallet, a new (and better) Kobo e-reader, a new shoulder bag, a new pair of reading glasses, a temporary driver’s license and, with a $500 deductible on my home insurance policy, am out of pocket about $650 (the insurance won’t cover the window replacement). Have I learned my lesson? Er, YES!
For much of the week I toted around the saddle bag for my bicycle as a temporary replacement to my shoulder bag. Its strap was missing the pin on one side to affix it properly to the bag and it was always coming out. Last night, as part of my project to get everything right, I stopped in at the bicycle store on Van Horne where I bought my bike and saddle bag.
The young man at the counter must have recognized an Anglophone. “Bonj… Hi!” he said.
As I started explaining what I needed he asked, “Are you from Cowansville?”
“Dunham,” I said.
“I saw your key ring. It says ‘Cowansville Mazda’”, he said. “My father owns it.”
“Really,” I said. “I bought my car there.” Well duh!
When he started taking down the details of how to reach me regarding getting a new pin for the strap, he stopped in the middle of writing my name down.
“Hey, Mr. Silverman, I know you. You were my English teacher. You were the best English teacher I ever had!”
In a past life, for the better part of a decade, I was a supply (substitute) teacher in both the French and English school boards covering Granby, Cowansville and over a dozen smaller towns and villages. I worked in a high school, scores of elementary schools and a federal prison. It was a tough job. Kids aren’t the calmest beings in the world and the introduction of a supply teacher into the routine of school life is sometimes an invitation to: PARTY! I tried my best in often difficult circumstances and didn’t feel particularly appreciated by the school administration. Eventually work petered out and I had to think about changing careers. Once, at La Belle Province restaurant in Cowansville, I came across a young teenage girl who told me how much her English class missed me (I had taught English as a 2nd language at Massey-Vanier High School full-time for one semester before giving up).
I was moved. I had moved heaven and earth to try to get a large and unruly secondary 1 class to adapt to a textbook way beyond their English-language level. No one in the English department had ever tried to assist or mentor me but, then again, I wasn’t exactly a “squeaky wheel” demanding attention. I tried to do everything myself and pretend that everything was OK when it clearly wasn’t.
The young man in the bike store went on enthusiastically. “I’ll always remember you. You taught English so well!”
We worked out that Antoine had been a student at St. Leon Elementary school in Cowansville. I had subbed there quite a lot in the mid-2000’s. He was now, besides an employee of the bike store, training as a biathlon athlete. He was rather small but I imagine that his endurance is phenomenal.
I allowed his compliments to melt into me. I even shook his hand. Twice. (“You like me. You really like me.”)
Kids have a short memory. Not all, however.
I was, and remain, quite moved. My time as a supply teacher was rather thankless, although I do know that the kids liked me at the time and that I often connected with some of them in the difficult process of learning English in a predominantly French environment.
I think that I’ll guard that appreciation in my heart for a while, even if it hurts.