May we awaken from the illusion that we are different. – Thich Nhat Hanh
The flowering trees are all at peak bloom right now, the magnolias and also the dogwood, the cherry and apple blossoms; the forsythia…it is a perfect Springtime moment. April always gets me thinking about how fleeting and ephemeral beauty is, about life and death, about what lasts when we are gone. These trees, many planted by people no longer on this earth; ideas that take root; people that stay with us, why do some things linger more than others? I don’t know why, yet I do know, with no hesitation, the answer to other common questions.
Where were you born? What is your mother’s maiden name? What is your best friend’s name? Who was your favorite teacher?
Philadelphia, Zelitch, Sarah, Mrs. Lyshon.
Of those answers it is Mrs. Lyshon I think of in April, Mrs. Lyshon who I can no longer picture, who I have few memories of and yet she remains over 50 years after being my 3rd grade teacher the automatic response to a security question. I’ve had other good teachers yet her name is etched in my memory. I remember she was kind, that she was old (probably in her 50’s, which to a 9 year old was practically elderly : ), I remember she seemed dedicated.
I don’t miss being on social media yet there are ways to connect that are best done on Facebook or Instagram.This would be my query: Is there anyone out there who grew up in Broomall, Pa and went to Marple Grade School (since closed) who remembers Mrs. Lyshon? Does anyone else use her as the answer to the security question “Who was your favorite teacher?” What memories do you have of her? If you are a relative, know that she was beloved. If you are even considering being a teacher know that it is a profession where as much as it sounds like a cliche you really will have a lifelong impact on students. You will say or do things or somehow touch them in a way that they will never forget.
For Mrs. Lyshon there is only one strong memory I have from that year. One day we came to class and she was standing in front with one of our classmates. A – after all these years I still feel a need to protect his identity – was beside her, and I seem to recall that his mother was in the room, over on the side beside the rows of desks and chairs. “Everyone, this is A,” she said, which seemed odd given that of course we knew it was A, he was in class with us everyday. And further, he was probably the best student in the class (I thought I was probably up there too but deferred the top honors to him). Then she described a little about him, what he liked to do or his interests. I don’t remember exactly what she said but she shared a bit about him and encouraged us to play with him. I recall mostly how it felt. That A did not look embarrassed at all, but rather, he seemed at ease, as did his mother. I imagine Mrs. L had her arm gently behind him, that she spoke softly, that we all listened intently. I don’t recall detecting any sense of pity or disdain among my fellow students, anything beyond the fact that here was a classmate perhaps we should pay more attention to or consider including more.
Soon after that one of my best friends, who lived on the same street as A, and I decided to go to his house to play. I think the mothers must have spoken to arrange it because when we came to the door of A’s house she was delighted to see us and brought us into the living room. I remember the room was spotless and that she offered us something to eat – probably cookies because I was worried about making crumbs on the carpet. We did something sedentary and quiet, as this was A’s nature, likely board games or cards. I do remember that he barely spoke or looked at us but he seemed happy that we were there.
I don’t think I ever went to his house again but we did ask him to join our regular kickball game at recess – he demurred but seemed pleased to be included. A was a great student yet he didn’t have friends and we could try to change that. It was something in the way that Mrs. L spoke that day that stayed with me, that there was no judgement, no sense of anyone being better or worse than anyone else, that the competitive nature that was already taking hold in subtle ways – of who was best at math or spelling or pitching (I liked to think I was really good at all these things) subsided and we were all just children who wanted the same things. To feel a part of, not separate.
Years later reflecting on that time I think there’s a good possibility that A had undiagnosed autism. That his mother had gone to the teacher concerned about her son’s lack of social skills, with a maternal yearning that he be seen and known. And that Mrs. Lyshon volunteered to encourage the class to engage with him more. In her unassuming yet powerful way she was an early proponent of inclusion.
I have no idea what happened to A and I’ve lost touch with even my dearest friends from that time, yet I somehow have kept this soft spot for Mrs. Lyshon, for her compassion and commitment to all of us. She planted a seed, an example I still to this day try to uphold.
Who was the Mrs. Lyshon in your life?