Back in Tehran, school year of 1970-1973, I had an elementary teacher known as Mrs. Jewish teacher. This teacher was obviously Jewish and she was called by her religion. It is incredible how we recall labels and not names. I guess dividing people due to race, religion, and ethnicity has always been around in my home country. Without a doubt we never called our teachers by their name, only with a title: Mr. or Mrs. Teacher.
In the hierarchy of power, teachers had their own ladder in that top to down human relationship. Respecting teachers was not only encouraged but it was part of the package that enforced a more fear based respect. Blind obedience was definitely part of this package.
Our Mrs. Jewish teacher happened to be living in the same neighborhood as I did, in fact just a couple of houses away from mine. Walking by her house I always wondered how she lived her life. In school we used to have our own fantasies about our teachers, whether they disciplined their own children or whether they eat the same kind of food as we did. Our childish imaginations had no borders.
Our Mrs. Jewish teacher was really a nice lady. I guess I recall her because I used to feel good to be in her neighbourhood. She used to encourage her students to write neatly and to keep their school books clutter free. Although our parents paid for the school books, this teacher frequently asked us to donate the books at the end of the school year to the school. The contributed books would be given to the next year students from less income families.
At some point, our Jewish teacher did encourage us to look beyond that little donation. She taught us to recycle our note books. In those days note books and writing materials in general were real commodity, a type of luxury that our parents did not have in their childhood. My parents used to make statements about how they were unable to imagine having those fancy writing material. Back in their time paper was a luxury itself, if now note books were for us. They meant to say that we were getting spoiled while going to school was a battle in their time.
I knew implicitly that not all children could afford those fancy 40 pages or 60 pages note books. My own cousins living in a small village south of Iran could not even attend school, because school was itself an extravagance is small rural villages. Thinking back now, those note books did not cost more than a penny still the culture of recycling was dynamic aspect of our school work.
In the commencement of school year we would receive a long list of specifically required school materials such as books, paper packs, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, and even uniforms. The note books we had to have, been sold in the stores in form of 40, 60, and 100 pages lined note books. I recall how the list was exciting for us children, yet, not for our parents.
Our Jewish teacher would tell us that we could erase all the scribbles in our old note books from previous years and reuse those papers. Even she would give us ideas that we could use the extra pages left at the end of the note books that belonged to either us or our siblings. For those children who did not want to take the extra work of erasing pages and pages of pencil scribbled papers, she would ask them to donate the notebooks to her.
I guess she would think that some other children whose parents were poor might want to do that extra effort in order to have access to some school martial, although second hand. I am not sure how she would approach those parents about her genius ideas on recycling note books, however she did teach us that we could always be considering others who are less privileged. I guess I recall this story now because recycling is a big issue for our overpopulated world. We have to learn to reuse and to use our resources carefully. It is both healthy and thoughtful.
Note: This article was originally written and published in EzineArticles February 13. 2009 by this author.