Wednesday, January 27, 2016

e.e. cummings and the Pen Ceremony

When I was in the second grade I was a shy kid with ponytails that sat in the back of the room. My second grade teacher was Mrs. Gilmore.  I was very quiet, very unsure of myself, but Mrs. Gilmore would  come by my desk often, lean close and whisper in my ear, "You can do this.  You just have to believe in yourself."

Mrs. Gilmore introduced my class that year to American poet e.e. cummings. He was famous because of his use of inventive punctuation and the lack of capital letters in traditional places.  Mrs. Gilmore's love for his poetry was contagious and so all of my classmates began to use Mr. Cummings as our writing mentor and adopted his style by writing our names in lowercase letters. During that year, under Mrs. Gilmore's tutelage, my self confidence grew as did my love for Mrs. Gilmore.  I began to believe in myself.

As we graduated to third grade, my friends reverted to writing their names in the traditional way but I continued to write my name in the top right hand corner with lowercase letters just to remind myself of Mrs. Gilmore's words.  Every time I wrote my name, I could feel her gentle hand on my shoulder and the whisper of her soft voice in my head encouraging me to believe in myself. When I went on to college I continued with lowercase letters because I had decided that I wanted to be a teacher, just like Mrs. Gilmore.  As my teaching career gathered in years, I continued writing my name in lowercase letters as a tribute to the dedicated teachers who mentored me and changed me along the way. Today... all these years later...  I still write my name in lowercase letters because I want to be a teacher like Mrs. Gilmore.  I want to inspire students like she once inspired me.  It reminds me that one teacher can change a child's life... because it happened to me.

Over the years I have told this story often when people have asked me why I sign my name in lowercase letters, so many of my colleagues know the story.  Today, much to my surprise, I walked into my last Chets Creek Book-of-the-Month and saw this beautiful painting by talented CCE artist Karen Willett of an e.e. cummings' quote. Our Principal, Susan Phillips, had chosen this month's book selection, Enourmous Smallness, by Matthew Burgess which is the story of e.e.cummings!  Karen's painting is taken from one of the book's illustrations.  The book is the story of Cumming's life from a small child into adulthood.   The book is filled with Cummings' unique poetry.  As Susan, the great storyteller, read the book to the assembled teachers, memories of Mrs. Gilmore reading poetry to us in second grade flooded my mind.  I was touched beyond belief.

When she finished, she laid two pens in front of me, a Chets Creek pen and a Chets Creek Church pen tied together with her trademark Clemson orange ribbon, representing a partnership that has meant so much to me over the years. It was then that I tearfully realized that this was a penning ceremony.   The Pen Ceremony is a fictitious ceremony created for the movie "A Beautiful Mind."  Historically university professors  have used pens to communicate their ideas to others. The giving of one's pen is a symbolic gift to the person being honored for recognition of their wisdom and contribution.  The only other time we have done a Pen Ceremony was when founding Principal Dr. Terri Stahlman left Chets Creek.

The faculty lined up silently and each presented me with a pen.  The pens were as varied and as significant as the teachers presenting them.  From the pen that screams "NO!" that I am suppose to use any time Susan calls to the beautiful engraved Waterford pen from KK Cherney (who couldn't even be there because her husband was having surgery) and the engraved pen from Suzanne Shall who came after everyone else had left (she is the Principal of her own school) with an engraved pen with my signature closing of "With great expectations."  Each and every pen will be cherished because of its significance and people that they represent.  To top it all off the gorgeous box that they gave me to keep the pens in is the very same box fashioned by master craftsman Doug Morgan (Deanna's husband) that we have used to hold all of our prayer requests and celebrations each week during our Monday Morning Prayer Group.  To say the tears flowed like a waterfall is an understatement.  I am not sure anyone ever deserves this kind of honor.

It is truly humbling for me to think that I have effected anyone else's life and believe it or not, it is difficult for me to stand in this type of limelight.  But former Alimacani Principal, Donna Hulsey, once said to me, "Get over yourself.  This is about so much more than you.  When a single teacher is honored, it honors all teachers and the entire teaching profession."  It reminds teachers of why they come to school everyday and why they give so much to so many.  It reminds each of us of the difference that one teacher can make in a child's life.

Today... I think Mrs. Gilmore would be pleased...    


JJ Brown said...

Mrs. Gilmore would be pleased.

Michelle Ellis & Debby Cothern said...


Dorry Lopez said...

Yes, Mrs. Gilmore would! What a touching "Book of the Month" day!

Mrs. Patricia Wallace said...

I'm sure she would've leaned closer and whisper in your ear, "You can do this. You just have to believe in yourself."

All hail queen dayle! ����✒

Kk Cherney said...

Your words leapt off of the paper and into my heart. I am forever changed because of you..dayle timmons.
Your quiet smallness is LARGER than life itself. I love you.k.k.

Anonymous said...

You so quietly have touched and molded so many teachers - even just from watching your craft over the years and trying to copy it. Yesterday was a perfect tribute to you and an honor reserved for only the most special people of The Creek.
-Karen Morris