I.C. MURRELL — Teacher’s connection made me a better student

Published 12:07 am Friday, January 31, 2020

Pine Bluff, Arkansas, 1986.

A 6-year-old moved into the Dollarway School District and learned who his teachers would be. The little guy could only imagine — he was pretty good at imagination — what his new classmates were named before the first day of school.

The young man wasn’t quite the social butterfly and at times could be shy, but “social butterfly” and “shy” weren’t exactly first-grade vocabulary (neither was “vocabulary”).

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As a preschooler in a smaller town, a lady would stop by his house and work with him on words, being rewarded a healthy little raisin for each one he got correct so he could speak with some confidence.

Mrs. Estes never gave little Ivy a raisin at Dollarway Elementary, but just as Mrs. Coleman did for a couple of years prior with raisins, Mrs. Estes already possessed that one great connector to a great teacher-student relationship.

Actually, two connectors. Her first name is Diane — my mother’s first name — and her last name is Estes — Este (pronounced Es-TEE) is my first cousin.

Wait, make it three connectors. Every time Ivy left Mrs. Baxter’s class to enter Mrs. Estes’ office, she’d somehow strike a conversation with him before going to the flash cards (to teach the difference between a yacht and cruise ship, among other things) and teaching how to produce “r” sounds instead of “w.”

The speech practices proved to be the genesis in growing from an Elmer Fudd to something close to a Jim Nantz, but more importantly, getting to know a child in a one-on-one environment brought such a peace that helped a 6-year-old get through each day in an environment full of social circles.

The next year, a sparkling new elementary school opened. Now a second-grader, Ivy still faced some communication challenges (it was all in the still-molding head, nothing medical), but Mrs. Estes was there again to aid him.

Whether Mrs. Estes knew it or not (because Ivy sure didn’t at age 7), the little guy from the backwoods would grow up to be a good speaker and honed his writing skills to become an effective speaker and earn a degree in speech communication. In the 17 years since his last college class, the values the young Arkansan picked up from such a positive atmosphere became an important tool to use in a Texas newsroom and changed his views on how to lead and set examples for others for the better.

The more a teacher can connect with a student, the more a student can respond without worry of consequence and the more responsibility some little Ivy out there can handle. The overall mood and confidence of a student can very well dictate how (s)he performs in school, but if nurtured right, the rewards can last a lifetime.

One of those rewards: Students tend to visit their old teachers just to tell them “thanks for everything.” I’ve been known to befriend a few.

Time to send Mrs. Estes a “thank you” card.

I.C. Murrell is the editor of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at 409-721-2435 or at ic.murrell@panews.com.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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