The Loving Touch

Mrs. Irene Davis will always be an influence in the lives of many of us. She taught in the Fayette County Schools for many, many years. She was my teacher in the seventh grade. Later when I was principal of Fayetteville Elementary School we worked together and she continued teaching for many years after that. She also taught Sunday School at the Fayetteville Methodist Church when I was a child. Although I was never a member of her church, I frequently attended her Sunday School class.

She was a gifted storyteller. In her classroom, she always started the school day with a story that taught a special moral value and she told it with such passion and emotion that often the girls would cry and the boys would hide their faces.

In the seventh grade I’m sure we studied all the subjects that you study in the seventh grade for she was an excellent teacher; but mostly I remember her stories. All these stories continue to be interwoven within my thinking. Sometimes when I’ve been at my wits end, I remember the story about the little boy that wouldn’t give up under overwhelming odds and how he mastered them with his courage, and gained strength to continue. I’m sure that my tolerance and concern for others were also influenced by these stories.

Discipline was never a problem in her room because she required her students to respect one another and she set the example. She never condoned pettiness, dishonesty, or self pity.

There was a boy in our seventh grade class who had been with us since we started the first grade. I had learned that he would lie, cheat, or steal at his convenience. I was stunned when she started using him to take the lunchroom money to the office. Didn’t she know how he was? But she let him know how important this job was and how much she appreciated his doing it. This was probably the first time anyone had ever trusted him and he took special pride in taking the money to the office. I even started trusting him more and as we entered high school he became a well-liked, trusted member of the class. She touched our lives and changed many of us.

I can say from first hand experience that all of us who knew Mrs. Irene are better people because of her loving touch. Her influence lives with Us.

Carol Sweatman sent me this email after reading this story:
What a wonderful story about Miss Irene. My favorite memory is about a boy in our class. He was older than I was and wanted to quit school. She sent him on an errand and told us that she needed our help. She said that he smoked and did not want to stay in school because he couldn't smoke. She said that she had made a bargain with him to keep him in school. She would let him go across the street next to the Nations' house and smoke at recess and after lunch if he would stay in school. She said that she wanted to teach him to read enough to take the driving test. She did not ask us to lie about it, but just not to go home and talk about it. She told us that as long as no one called Mr. Sams and complained, she could use that time to help him. Do you know how grown-up this made me feel? I would never have talked about it to anyone. I was helping Miss Irene help someone get a job. How important was that! Weren't we lucky to have people like that?