I wasn’t going to graduate! My thoughts exploded like a flock of black birds startled into flight by a loud noise: four years of hard, mind-boggling work - work when I was happy, work when I was ill, work when I was too tired to remember my name, never ending dead-lines for twenty page reports, lectures in classrooms with five-hundred students and one bedraggled professor, cold rainy walks to classrooms at the far end of campus, anxious moments over grades, nights of library research, countless hours reading thick text books, and thousands of dollars spent on tuition and rent for a crowded, cement floor dorm room.
My college advisor had summoned me to his office. He slouched at a very messy desk set against a dirty, unpainted wall. The air in the room was stiffling. There was nowhere to sit so I stood just inside the door of his office. He turned toward me with a scowl messing up his dark face.
“You are one credit short of the one-hundred twenty-eight credits you need to graduate and get your teacher’s certification,” he stated flatly.
I blinked and stood frozen to the floor. “One credit?” I gasped. “I thought everything had been planned out and was all set! What happened? What do I do!” I couldn’t believe I was hearing this. How could I not graduate? “What do I do?” I asked again, desperate for an answer.
“I don’t know,” the advisor said impatiently and swiveled his chair back to his desk. He was done talking to me. But if he didn’t know what to do how would I know what to do? My future depended on graduating!
Numb and lonely, I stumbled outside and sat on a stone bench alongside the campus lawn and watched the other students walk by chatting and laughing. I felt dejected and frightened. I had to graduate!
Somewhere, from deep inside my mind, my soul maybe, I heard or imagined, I don’t know which, two words: “independent study”. Was this the answer? But how? I had always done fairly well in English classes. It was then that I remembered a former professor from my second year of English - Mrs. Baylor.
I raced across campus to the English department. Please, oh please, let Mrs. Baylor be there. I pulled open the heavy wooden door of the building, ran up three flights of stairs, and hurried along a long, dim hallway. I peered around an open office door and there sat a grey-haired, smartly dressed, smiling lady.
“Oh, Mrs. Baylor! I need to talk with you!” I almost cried and then explained my graduation dilemma.
“I think I can help you,” she smiled. I was an education candidate so, together, we planned a project involving the children I wanted to teach.
That same day I went to the children’s section of the public library and checked out forty-five books written for kids about children with special physical and/or emotional needs. Every afternoon for the next three weeks, I propped myself under a huge, leafy tree in a nearby park with a wonderful breeze and read those books one by one. Then I hand-wrote a summary of each story on a 5x8 index card and listed the title, author, and the child’s age level. Every once in awhile I had to brush away an ant or red beetle that wanted to settle on me or those books and my back and legs began to ache; but I loved every minute of that project. My heart went out to each special child.
When I had assembled all forty-five cards, I tied them with a blue ribbon and returned to see Mrs. Baylor at a time we had previously agreed on. With both hope and anxiety, I handed her the cards. Again, she smiled warmly.
Nine days later, I pulled a large manilla envelope from my mailbox. Nervously, I tore it open. Inside were all forty-five of my index cards plus a hand-written note from Mrs Baylor: ‘I enjoyed reading your cards. Excellent job! You certainly have earned your credit .’ Joy!
With gratitude to Mrs.Baylor and a well-stocked public library, I graduated from college on time and earned my teacher’s certifications. Again, joy!
It’s been years since I graduated and began a teaching career; but I always remember Mrs.Baylor with love and appreciation
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