Ms. Bixby’s Last Day


When we were in Texas, Lana was commenting that almost all the books she’s reading for school this year are sad ones.  They just finished On My Honor (great book, by the way) and it was a heartbreaker.

But, she admitted, it was a good book.  Honestly, it does seem like the best books are pretty sad.  But then, conflict of some kind is an essential element of a plot, right?

Well, I have another one for her after she takes a break from “sad books.”  I just finished Ms Bixby’s Last Day.  I’m not sure where I heard about it and I don’t think I realized what it was about…just a book about a good teacher and some kids who loved her.

And it was a treasure.  It’s more about three scruffy fifth grade boys …well two are scruffy and one is a Japanese kid who, no matter what he does, will never be as good, as smart, as competent as his older sister than it is about Ms. Bixby.   But yes, it’s about a teacher…Maggie Bixby with that pink streak of  hair and a quote every day to talk about and interesting journal prompts that kids make the kids groan but love to write about.

And she’s the teacher I wanted to be, the one I tried to be, the one that sometimes I was but never as good as she was.  I wonder when  we’ll ALL realize that the most important thing a teacher can do is really KNOW her kids, really pay attention to THEM and hear them and really see them.  Everything else is secondary.  If you want to be one of the “good ones”, you need to see the kids more clearly than you see the curriculum. It reminds me of the line in Our Town…LOOK at me, Mama.

I remember one winter day in the late seventies.  I was teaching first grade in Holyoke and had just finished taking attendance when the school nurse stopped in with some papers.

What up with Bobby, she asked.

Huh, I said, looking closely at Bobby for the first time that day.  He needed a haircut. and his long bangs almost covered his eyes.  But if I had looked at him I would have seen the huge red egg on his forehead.

I called him over.

Bobby, honey, where did you get that big bump?

Oh, that, he said without blinking.  Me and my sister were yelling and running and w0ke up my daddy who was sleeping on the couch and he hit me with a baseball bat.

I was sick. Needless to say, Bobby’s dad ended up in court but my point is, if it weren’t for our school nurse, how long would it have taken for me to see that bump. We need to really see the kids we teach, the kids we’re raising, the kids next door, the grandkids.  We’ve got to look at them.

I guess I  love teacher books and this one is a treasure.  Ms Bixby does look. She does see. And then she takes care of her kids.  It makes you laugh right out loud and makes you cry and makes you think.  And, yes, it’s a kids’ book but it’s really for everyone.

I was thinking about other teacher books after I finished this one.  My sister, Anne, recommended Because of Mr. Terupt a long time ago.  Loved that one too.  And The Wednesday Wars is a good one.  And, obviously, the Magic School Bus books.  What I wouldn’t have given to be Ms. Frizzle!img_3681

And speaking of treasures, I went to see A Man Called Ove today and it was simply wonderful.  (Now there’s another book that made me laugh and made me cry.)

img_3680Snowbirds are coming back in droves.  The reunions at yoga are full of joy and love.  And we pick up where we left off without skipping a beat.  How lucky I am.

Jerry continues to improve.  He bumped into a friend at the Y yesterday who thought he was ‘totally cured.”  Not quite but it is incredible how well he’s doing.

So, even though I may be holding my breath until the election is over, all is well.  How could it not be?  Take a look at this sky!



12 thoughts on “Ms. Bixby’s Last Day

  1. Deirdre Christman

    Thank you for this upbeat post, Mary. I am so anxious these days that I wonder how I’ll make it through Tuesday! Good books, of course, are the answer. I will have to look for the ones you recommended. I’m reading Hag-Seed, the new Margaret Atwood and loving it. Just one comment about sad books, what I used to say when kids complained: Happy is sappy – unless it’s funny.

  2. Thank you, Mary. The cloud picture was a nice surprise at the end. ;o)

  3. Already I have downloaded A Man Called Ove on my Kindle. You have quite an effect on my reading list. Thank you for more insight into truly “seeing” the young child in front of you. So often you see people standing up talking to the adults and on rare occasions you see a savvy person bend down to be eye level with their children to include them in a word or two. Glad Jerry is doing better, too.

  4. Mary, you were one of those teachers that cared, and I know you did know each and every student you ever taught! You surely didn’t get that award for nothing! So glad Jerry is getting more and more back to himself!
    I know what you mean about those returning Northerners…..but oh, the traffic is so bad, stores are full…oh the season joys! If I don’t see you, have a blessed, wonderful Thanksgiving! I am thankful that you are in my life!
    Love ya, Pam

  5. I was going to say the same thing as Pam: you ARE one of the good ones! “Eyes on the child…learning” really was what we did. Our kids were seen and heard, safe and cared for. Awesome to think back on the influence we had on so many students; I definitely miss that part! Wonderful to hear how well Jerry is healing; you both deserve some time to feel utterly healthy!

  6. Mary, I love your writing. Why don’t you write a book, maybe a childrens and adults book? I’m making reservations for the first copy.
    See you soon at yoga!
    Ruth – the Swiss snowbird

  7. Thank you for sharing the books in the post! I look forward to reading some of them. You were one of the great teachers! Your students and colleagues knew it 😀 I consider myself blessed to have worked with you. Thanks for your support and encouragement throughout the years ❤️ Love Ya!

  8. Truth be told, Ms. Bixby, like all “good” caring teachers, must have had an oblivious moment or how else would she have learned to look so closely at every child. It just wasn’t in the book. You are definitely one of the “good ones.” I am reading “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by the same author as “Ove”. It’s another treat!
    I too am holding my breath, afraid to breathe, until after the election. May the winds of reason prevail.

  9. I continue to think that kid books are the best. One of my favorites is ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ .Loved the personalities, the history lessons, and the ending.
    You were a caring teacher, as evidenced in your weekly shares. I know I should have been more caring, too, but now teachers are doing all they can to just stay above water.
    I WAS Ms. Frizzle, at least as much as I was allowed to be.
    Love to you and Jerry………..

  10. Thank you Mary. I am in one of those seasons in my teaching career where I need to be reminded of why I do what I do. I hope the feelling passes soon. I am going to find the Mrs. Bixby book…thank you.

    I didn’t realize that Ove was a movie. I loved the book! Where did you see it?

    So glad to hear about Jerry”s improvement. I think of you both often and you are always in my prayers. ❤

  11. Wendie Highsmith

    I love your book reviews—for all ages.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s