My seventh grade teacher was Sister Mary Dorotheus. I was very disappointed to have her for my teacher. This was because my closest friends were in Sister Innocent's room next door. I felt so left out. I was angry! Bear in mind that back then, unlike today, we had self-contained classrooms where one teacher taught the same students for the whole day. So, there were no opportunities to be with my friends except before and after school, at recess, and at choir practice. I looked forward to those times each day, but the rest of the time I felt miserable. I grumbled about everything! I blamed Sister Mary Dorotheus for the fact that I was separated from my friends.
I eagerly awaited dismissal so I could walk home with Frances, Johnabeth and Kathy. During our walks we discussed the events of the school day. It was a good way to get things off our chests. It was a fun time of friendship.
As time went on I began to appreciate some things about Sister Mary Dorotheus. She was a very good arithmetic teacher. (Yes, we called the subject arithmetic, not math or mathematics.) This was my weakest area academically, but with Sister's instruction, I was improving and actually enjoying some arithmetic success!
Sister gave lots of board work, where students stood at the chalkboard and wrote the problems dictated by Sister and then raced to solve them. When someone erred, Sister explained it rather than belittle the person for making a mistake.
In English class Sister also taught us to parse sentences. Parsing meant naming the parts of speech of each word and explaining their relationships to one another. A word might, for example, be a noun, but we had to tell how this noun was being used in the sentence. Was it a subject, object, or complement of a verb or a preposition? Parsing was even harder than diagramming sentences in my opinion, but such analysis helped me understand sentence structure and provided a good foundation for studying foreign languages in high school.
One time Sister D. announced there would be an art contest open only to the older students. The theme was the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Art was one of my talents, and I had lots of experience drawing the Sacred Heart on my Lenten booklet covers each year. I figured I could do well at this, so I decided to enter.
I spent hours drawing a traditional rendering of the Sacred Heart. It was a full-length picture of Jesus with his heart in the middle, his finger pointing to his heart, and his other hand outstretched as if beckoning us to approach. Carefully I colored it with colored pencils. When I submitted it, Sister Mary Dorotheus loved it. I took pleasure in her approval.
My major competitor in art was Gary Effort. He and I, along with Kathy O'Donnell, were the top artists in the seventh grade. Gary, however, was more creative and talented than I was. Instead of jealousy though, there was respect and appreciation between us. We used to have "art talks" on the playground. There we would find an out-of-the-way spot to chat about art. We had to "hide" because boys and girls didn't mingle at recess. Sometimes Gary would show me helpful art techniques that he had learned from his dad, a professional artist. We liked each other.
Gary won the Sacred Heart of Jesus art contest. He did an original, modern-looking picture that no one could deny was the best! Mine came in second, and I felt very good about that.
Although I never did warm up a lot to Sister Mary Dorotheus, my attitude changed years later. One day, during my senior year of high school, I was visiting my alma mater, St. Edward School. I didn't particularly want to see Sister D., but there she was. I would love to have disappeared. After all, I had probably been a thorn in her side. She invited me to visit her for awhile. Deep down I didn't want to; yet, I wanted to be polite.
It was a revealing visit. Sister spoke very kindly to me about how proud she was of all my high school accomplishments. She was able to recite all kinds of things that I had done, which I didn't even remember. I was amazed and wondered how she knew all those things. And it made me feel so good inside, because I had reason to believe, because of my former attitude, that she would not have cared anything about me.
After I left, I had feelings of guilt about the way I had behaved in seventh grade. I was also touched by Sister's kind words. It was just wonderful! I thought she must be a saint for how she put up with me years earlier.
Photo: The drawing I made for the contest. The camera really couldn't take close-ups, so it looks blurrier than it was. I took the photo in case I didn't get the picture back. Now I wish I had used color film.