My 1st Grade Teacher Made Me Beam with Joy Last Week


Last week, I was in the middle of doing mundane work tasks when I saw two Facebook comments from my 1st grade teacher. And my heart kind of soared.

Several years ago, I reconnected with her on social media, and I’m so glad for that. She is one of my most beloved teachers. As I’ve aged and time has stretched on, I’ve recognized the many ways in which she was supportive and influential. Some aspects of that support and influence have been obvious from the beginning; some have become even more clear with age.

I remember standing by the chalkboard and picking up a small violin. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with that chin rest, or even that it was a chin rest, so I… just lay my entire head on it. Like it was a pillow of some sort. How do you hold this thing?

“No, like this,” she gestured, helping me hold it and look at the strings.

“I think that fits!” she said.

We were trying to figure out if this teeny violin would be the right size for me to start playing in the elementary school orchestra. She thought I had musical aptitude and decided to invite me in this direction, thinking that it would be good for me. So I started orchestra three grades early. I was now going to play this super small, stringed instrument with a bunch of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders.

It was good for me. To be honest, I never turned out to be especially apt at the violin, and I stopped playing it for good in 5th grade. But my 1st grade teacher had introduced me to music, and this wonderful direction would last much longer. She had originally invited me into orchestra because she liked my little, singing voice. I would eventually get a degree in vocal music. She initiated that direction.

Now that I’m older, I can also see that she was trying to give me an outlet for confidence, and she was seeking to give me an opportunity that was uniquely mine. While it’s definitely true that 7-year-old-me was capable of being quite a ham in the right setting (are you surprised?) at that age, I was also shy and very unsure of myself. My 1st grade teacher gave me a gift in this direction. To state it clearly, she loved me.

Ultimately, I tell this story today to speak to last week’s story. I want to ponder the gift of those Facebook comments. Most of all, I want to consider the presence of relationship over time.

Last week, my first grade teacher saw some of what we’re doing together in ministry at the University of Michigan, particularly the inclusive kind of community we’re seeking to cultivate, and she just praised it in those comments. Among other things, she called me a “good girl,” which is a remarkably 1st-grade-teacher thing to say.

When I saw that, I made a sound of glee and sat at my computer, beaming like a very old 1st grader.

I started thinking about how time is an illusion in some ways. We age, we grow, and we experience so much, but we are always at once, every age of ourselves at the same time. And this also means that the significant relationships in our lives remain present in very real and vital ways.

This means when we invest our presence toward love of another, that sticks around.

Renee Roederer



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