The generation of teachers who spend 40 years in the classroom like Mrs. Bess is slowly fading away. Born in 1952, Mrs. Bess came from the generation of teachers who had longevity in the profession and retired after 30 plus years.
Recently, I was informed that my former 8th grade Georgia Studies teacher, Mrs. Bess, at Jean Childs Young Middle School in Atlanta passed away.
When I read the news I was shook to my core at the passing of my dear teacher. Even in my moment of sadness, I begin to remember the attributes that made her stand out over all the years. `
She Was Stern
As a veteran educator of 20 years, Mrs. Bess knew how to handle my generation. She was stern yet compassionate. She realized that coming off of the 80s and affirmative action that Black students of the 90s would have to challenge the status quo and racism differently.
She was stern with how she taught us and held us accountable to self control, reading, civic engagement, and knowing our history because she knew the importance of teaching us how to successfully navigate through society.
Mrs. Bess Knew Her Subject Area
You could not argue down Mrs. Bess about Georgia history. She didn’t just know the material; she was a guardian of it. She ensured that we as her students knew that history is to be factual not subjective to one side or one person’s perspective. She taught us that true history should be inclusive of historical events and important moments in time.
Mrs. Bess realized because school districts in Georgia didn’t have a culturally inclusive curriculum that she would have to go above and beyond to ensure students she taught saw themselves reflected in the book and curriculum we were using.
This required teachers like Mrs. Bess to utilize small groups, pairs, individual/solo and grade level projects that brought in various perspectives of the current unit of history we were studying. Additionally, it required us as students to utilize the media center to research other books and sources to further our knowledge.
I learned the hard way about challenging Mrs. Bess in class. However, in those weekly detentions held on Friday after school, I learned many valuable lessons in Atlanta’s history as well as the state that I teach to my students about to this day.
A Teacher Always Knows Their Students
If someone threw paper in class, she knew who it was. Missing homework from the basket, she could identify who was missing without looking. Which assignments were missing a name on the paper … she could tell by having someone read the first answer who wrote the paper.
Mrs. Bess knew the exact type of giveaways to motivate our engagement during the trivia review because if you paid attention and were engaged in the review, you had a 70% chance of passing the assessment.
The foundational skills Mrs. Bess used to differentiate learning while utilizing advanced technology of the time reflects why teachers are the best source of reimagining education.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.