The Kindness of Teachers

Miss Rosemary Follett and David LaRochelle
Miss Rose­mary Fol­lett and David LaRochelle

I loved first grade.

Fifty-one years lat­er, I still have vivid mem­o­ries of my teacher, Miss Fol­lett. She played the piano every day. She read to us from her giant book of poet­ry. She showed us pho­tos of her trips to exot­ic places, like Alas­ka and Hawaii.

At Hal­loween we screamed in ter­ror and delight when she hob­bled into our class­room dressed as a witch. At East­er we fol­lowed “bun­ny tracks” through­out the school till they led us to a chest filled with panora­ma sug­ar eggs that Miss Fol­lett had hand­made, one for each of us. On our birth­days we sat at the spe­cial birth­day desk that was dec­o­rat­ed with crêpe paper stream­ers and bal­loons. Miss Fol­lett would light the can­dles on the plas­ter of Paris birth­day cake and the entire class would sing.

Miss Fol­lett was also seri­ous about learn­ing. That was fine with me. One of the rea­sons I want­ed to start first grade was because I des­per­ate­ly want­ed to read. Words were all around me; I want­ed to know their secrets.

Humpty Dumpty
Hump­ty Dumpty

I also remem­ber Hump­ty Dump­ty, Miss Follett’s form of behav­ior man­age­ment. The Hump­ty Dump­ty cook­ie jar sat on the cor­ner of Miss Follett’s desk. If our class was very, very good, Hump­ty Dump­ty might (mind you, might) be mag­i­cal­ly filled with cook­ies for us. No one ever want­ed to do any­thing that would dis­please Humpty.

When I became a children’s author, Miss Fol­lett attend­ed one of my pub­li­ca­tion par­ties. It was a proud moment for both of us. When I auto­graphed her book, I includ­ed doo­dles of my favorite first grade memories.

Years passed.

This last spring I came home from run­ning errands to find a large box wait­ing in front of my door. When I removed the lay­ers of bub­ble wrap, I dis­cov­ered Miss Follett’s Hump­ty Dump­ty cook­ie jar inside, along with this note:

Dear David,

Now that I am mov­ing to senior hous­ing and need to downsize, 
it’s time for Hump­ty to find a new home. I thought 
he might enjoy liv­ing in your studio.

Your First Grade Teacher
Rose­mary Follett

Miss Fol­lett did indeed teach me to read. But she taught me a lot of oth­er things as well. She taught me that adults can be both seri­ous and play­ful. She taught me that art and music and poet­ry make life more beau­ti­ful. She taught me that the world is full of fas­ci­nat­ing places, and that I can go vis­it them. She taught me that you are nev­er too old to use your imagination.

And she taught me that teach­ers nev­er stop car­ing about their students.

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Heidi Kay Hammond
6 years ago

Beau­ti­ful! Thank you. May all of the teach­ers of the world be remem­bered so fondly.

6 years ago

This was so touch­ing. I am a retired ele­men­tary school teacher. I would love to think one of my stu­dents had as many good mem­o­ries of me as you have of Ms. Follett.

David LaRochelle
Reply to  slowsly
6 years ago

I bet many of your stu­dents have won­der­ful mem­o­ries of you in their hearts; teach­ers play such an impor­tant role in the lives of young people…a role that influ­ences them for the rest of their lives.

6 years ago

What a great exam­ple of how a teacher’s work lives on in the lives of her stu­dents — and how we can con­tin­ue pay­ing it forward.

Lisa Bullard
6 years ago

What a won­der­ful sto­ry that demon­strates how it’s pos­si­ble to be one of those peo­ple who brings light into a some­times-dark world, and how it’s pos­si­ble to make a life­long dif­fer­ence in a child’s life!

David LaRochelle
Reply to  Lisa Bullard
6 years ago

So very true, Lisa. Teach­ers have a life-long impact on their stu­dents that they may nev­er real­ize. I was for­tu­nate to have many won­der­ful teach­ers, Miss Fol­lett being a shin­ing example.

Pat Bauer
Pat Bauer
6 years ago

Such a sweet sto­ry that real­ly touched my heart. And eyes! I’m sure that Miss Fol­lett feels as lucky to have had you as a stu­dent as you do for hav­ing her as a teacher. And now YOU get to fill the cook­ie jar!