Rick Houser:
A big lesson learned

When the beginning of a school year rolls around I always go back to my year in the seventh grade. This might possibly have been the most eventful year in the twelve years I attended school. This was my last year to go to school at Moscow and of course my thought and emotions about that ran rampant with mixed thoughts. For most the seventh grade is the year most children hit puberty and I was no exception. To this area I was one wild and crazy guy! But most of all every day for a half of a day my teacher was my mother!

Rick Houser

Yes you heard me right my teacher was my mom. How could the educational system have done this to any child and especially me! Mom didn’t find out until it was almost time for school to begin or at least that was what she told me. Oh how embarrassing? I knew for sure I was going to just die from the humiliation of my mom and me in the same classroom. Here I was the tallest kid in the class and was certain I was probably the coolest kid in the class. And there was my mom. She stood 4’11” and weighed about 104 pounds. Up until now she had taught kindergarten or fourth grade. So what did she know about kids my age and just how complicated being a seventh grader really was.

Even though I objected loudly and even begged mom to ask for another assignment she wouldn’t change her decision to take on the task of teaching us. She assured me she would try her best to understand our issues and would stay out of sight as much as she could. So as the year began I decided I had better accept her being there and try to make the best of it.

The first few days went along smoothly. But there became issues of trouble between her and I. Now here is where I must admit that all the trouble that was happening was happening on my end. It seemed I almost daily would get into some kind of disturbance and mom would take me to the hall and tell me we would deal with this at home. (What this meant was I would be dealt with by dad and he had little to say.) There would be periods of time where we got along and I would get sidetracked as for some reason the girls were becoming more and more of interest to me. But eventually I would stir up trouble and we would go out to the hall etc…

But about a third of the way through the school year something happened that changed the rest of the year. One morning Bill Whitford the principal opened the door to our classroom and called mom out into the hall. A moment later mom returned with a very tall man walking behind her. She stopped in front of the class and said” class we have a new student with us today and his name is Larry. “We learned later Larry had been in reform school and had been released to his grandfather. He was two years older than us and stood 6’ 5”. Now here was something that drew the class to total silence. Mom said now Larry pick out an empty desk and move it over to the next row please. He then walked back a row looked around and reached over two rows and with one hand picked up a desk and lifted it over to where he was standing and placed it where she had pointed. If you think one little part of that went unnoticed you have another thought coming. I know every kid in there sat with jaws dropped and eyes popped out. Our class had just got a giant for a classmate!

My mom walked back to where he was and began handing him school books he would need and gave him a couple of pencils and some notebook paper. Now Larry at his height and mom at her height was a sight to behold. As mom talked to him and the entire time he had been in the room he had yet to speak a word. All he had was a look that by my interpretation was one that said don’t mess with me. But the rest of the day he stayed quiet and even when on the playground he remained alone and smoked a cigarette in silence as we again only stared. His arrival on the scene took center stage that day and for a few days after. I know at home that night my mom said she had been scared some by his size and said she could tell he had been neglected in life and he really was more afraid of us than we were him. (I somehow doubted that.)

As the rest of the year moved on Larry began to speak but only a word here and there. My mom would give him assignments that she had designed just for him. She said he hadn’t been given help and had fallen behind in learning. I noticed that at lunch and recess and before and after class mom was seen talking one on one with Larry. Since in those days there was no such thing as counselors to assist children with special needs of any kind my mom decided she would be his tutor and guide. By the second nine week period he had been there he had improved quite a bit in his scores.

Still he kept his tuff guy expression and didn’t say much but it was noticeable that when he did talk he had a sense of humor and really a keen outlook on what was going on around him. We had a play at the end of the year. Mom was one to put on plays and she was determined everyone would have a part in it and he was to be no exception. The night of the program we had a large crowd and a good time. I know after the program was over Larry waited until most all of the kids had left and then he went to my mom and said thanks for giving me a part and thanks even more for treating me so nice and all the help she had given him. I stood off to the side stunned as that was more words than I had ever heard him say all year.

That night I think I learned mom was special to those who weren’t ever treated special. She was a crusader for the lost causes. I have always been proud of her approach in this area and feel she might have been one of the first to leave no child behind. From that night on I stopped giving her a hard time in class. She had earned my respect.

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.