Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Teacher Sweater

Just over 10 years ago, I completed my first placement as a student teacher. I spent about one month in Ms. Neudoerffer's grade 5 classroom. She was -and still is- one of the finest teachers I've ever come across.

And while there are numerous teaching tricks that I picked up from Ms. Neudoerffer, there is something that I saw in her classroom that I'llnever forgot:

The Teacher Sweater
On the very first day I was in her room, I saw the wooliest, coziest, most-worn, most-loved sweater hanging on a hook in her cupboard. Sometimes it would hang over the back of her chair. Sometimes it would hang off of her shoulders. But it was always there: Ms. Neudoerffer's teacher sweater.
Soon after I graduated, I got my first teaching job. And when I thought about how to set up my classroom, it was that first grade 5 classroom that came to mind. I wanted the rocking chair. I wanted the homework bins. But most of all, I wanted that sweater.
I found the chair and I found the bins, but for the life of me, I just couldn't find that perfect sweater.
Until one rainy day about 5 years ago in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island...
Before you read on, I want you to close your eyes and picture what you think a teacher sweater looks like... Got it? Ok, now you can continue:
...I was walking down the street with my family and came across this store that looked like the kitschy-type store I usually steer clear of. But something told me to go inside. I did and in the back, I found a sweater wonderland: there was shelf after shelf of hand-loomed British virgin lambs' wool sweaters. I thought that if ever I had a chance to find my sweater, it was here.
I looked for a bit before a kind, older gentleman who introduced himself as the owner offered to help me. I described what I was looking for. It needed to be:
  1. Like a cardigan but with no buttons
  2. Be longer than a normal sweater but shorter than a sweater-coat.
  3. Be large enough that I can wear it over another long-sleeve shirt.
  4. Have pockets that are large enough for both my hands and a piece of chalk or two.
  5. Be cozy.
He said that he had just the thing. He told me to face the mirror and shut my eyes while he slipped it onto my arms. When he was ready, he said to look. I did. My breath caught in my throat at the sight I saw: This was it. This was Mrs. Neudoerffer's Sweater. This was my Sweater.
"It's perfect!" I whispered, my voice cracking and my eyes filling with tears. He smiled, satisfied. And the he asked me this question:
"By any chance, are you a teacher?"
"How did you know?" I replied. "Was it the request for chalk-sized pockets that gave it away?"
"Because teachers always love this sweater. So much so, that we've taken to calling it The Teacher Sweater." To me, this was even more proof that I needed to purchase this sweater.
Sadly, I did not walk out of the store with my sweater that day. But don't fret; it's only because every sweater is made-to-order, in the specific color and size you want. My medium eggplant arrived at my doorstep about two weeks later.
The good news? I loved it even more when I got it home. The bad news? British Virgin Sheep's wool is freakishly warm. And by that I mean insanely hot. As much as I love my sweater, I hardly ever get to wear it. It's just not cold enough.
Until today. Today was freakishly cold. So cold, in fact, that I got to wear her:
My Teacher Sweater.
Isn't she beautiful?
Whether you're a teacher or not, or whether you live in PEI or not, you can snag your own snazzy sweater from the Northern Watters website. Tell them a teacher sent you ;-)

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