I enjoyed school. In fact, as I look back on it, I would say I loved it. But there were two subjects with which I struggled greatly: 4th grade penmanship and any grade math. But one of the most important lessons about life I learned was from my 4th grade teacher, Miss Leynse. I am thinking about Miss Leynse because yesterday my assistant was struggling to read my notes about the church bulletin content. I apologized for my poor penmanship and told her it was not Miss Leynse’s fault. I know how to write proper cursive, but too often I write in haste, failing to make the proper curves and humps which make cursive writing a joy to read. You see, it’s not that Miss Leynse didn’t teach me well. It’s that I don’t always remember my “Miss Leynse Lesson”.
I remember the day. The sun was shining. The windows were open. My classmates were outside for recess. And I was sitting at my desk, pencil to the lined paper, writing rows of “m” and “n.” I was struggling with getting the second “hump” on each of the “m’s”, not because I didn’t know how, but because I was in a hurry to get outside with Billy and Duane and Suzie and Cindy and the rest. So, I took my paper up to Miss Leynse, seated at her neatly arranged wooden desk, handed it to her and confessed, “some of the “m’s” have only one hump, but is this good enough?” She didn’t even look at my paper. She just looked into my eyes and said, “Billy, it’s good enough when it’s right.” She handed the paper back to me. I retreated to my desk and I made all the malformed letters into proper m m m m m m m m m. And then I ran outside to the cement playground for the few minutes remaining before the loud bell rang.
I think of my Miss Leynse story often, and I tell it every time someone will listen to it. I cannot tell you how many times I have said to myself, “Billy, it’s not good enough until it’s right.” Miss Leynse was both my second and fourth grade teacher at Sheboygan Christian School, where in those critical years I learned about life and academics and God with the same thirty classmates. I can recall nearly all of my elementary school teachers and tell you stories about them. I am who I am today because these were teachers, along with my later in life teachers, who heard and responded to the call to teach children. And while Miss Leynse couldn’t cure me of my habit of rushing through “details”, she could teach me about not settling for “good enough” in life.
Your children and grandchildren are back in school. They have teachers who are forming their lives. If it was up to me, I would make sure all teachers heard “thank you for forming my child” at every opportunity. The future of our society, indeed, of the world, depends on teachers who respond to God’s call to teach children. Each day, every teacher could be giving every child a “Miss Leynse story” which they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Have we told our children to listen well? We, as a society, should make sure that we honor, respect and thank people who every day put up with the demands and challenges of their teaching jobs because they want to help some little Billy or Suzie know what it means to be valuable and valued as a child.
I should send Miss Leynse a note.