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Sheryl Green: Becoming a different kind of teacher

Talk to most teachers, and they may say they wanted to be a teacher since childhood. They will recall teaching lessons to their stuffed animals lined along their bed, or making Mom and Dad sit down on the floor of a makeshift classroom in the garage. Some teachers, however, choose the profession later in life after having a realization that life is too short not to make a difference.

She was the overlooked, forgotten child who fell through the cracks of a caring classroom time after time — the quiet, shy, compliant little girl who was lost in the crowd for the formative years of her existence. Until one teacher brought her to the forefront of attention and altered her life forever.

He shamed her.

He called on her to read aloud, but her bashful demeanor prevented her from doing so as eloquently as her peers. His voice raised in his frustration, and the ridicule became personal. “The only reason you are being passed on to the next grade is because no one wants to deal with you anymore,” he shouted at the disheveled youngster, dirtied and unkempt by life’s circumstances and situations beyond her control. She cowered and remained fortified throughout the remainder of her school years and on into her adult life, struggling to get out from under the words of her scoffer.

After she was grown and had children of her own, she looked at her mediocre, struggling life and made a choice. She chose to rise above that proclamation of rejection. The young mother realized what she was cheated of as a young girl and resolved to pursue what she deserved, what her family deserved – better.

She went the non-traditional route, balancing college with a family, but her resolve simply magnified the persistence her former teacher had discounted. Now, years later, she uses what could have become a crutch to become her motivation.

Anyone has the power of the tongue. We can speak life into the people we come in contact with or we can speak death. Teachers hold a higher level of responsibility to be life-speakers to the impressionable children who sit in our desks, but we all can all decide what we do based on what we hear.

Her name is Ruby Aleatha Thrush, and she chose to become a different kind of teacher. She now speaks life into her art students at Britt David Magnet Academy on a daily basis. She joins the little hands of our children with possibility and hope. That shy, ridiculed little girl of old is now connecting kids with creative innovation, which is the most personal, relevant and essential avenues of developing the whole child. She models one of the many roles education should play in the life of a child. Our classrooms should be a molding of the individual to develop self-reliance, independence and individual thought.

Not every student who comes into Ms. Thrush’s art room is an artist. There may not be a Rembrandt hidden among the Hello Kitty T-shirts and Star Wars book bags. But Ms. Thrush inspires them to powerfully create what only they as individuals can create: a personal masterpiece that proclaims their importance, their identity, their talent, and their meaning in this crazy world. Ms. Thrush’s class motto is simple, yet profound: “If you make a mistake, make it great.” I take that to mean two things: If you’re going to try something new, something creative and unique, try it loudly and proudly, so that any blunder you make highlights your willingness to try; and if you happen to make a mistake, learn from it. Take the mishaps and turn them into something magnificent.

I can only imagine the atmosphere in Ms. Thrush’s art class. I can’t help but smile at how much ingenuity and confidence is being cultivated with a crayon, a paint brush, and the freedom to mess up. More than anything, though, I’d like to sit beside her and color the world with a little more positivity.

Sheryl Green: