Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Writer's Beginnings by Marion Ekholm


Unlike Robert Fulghum, who learned everything he needed to know in kindergarten, my learning experience came in third grade. All the odd number classes, including kindergarten, were in an ancient wooden building. It was old even when my mother attended. My teacher, Miss. C., was so short that most of her students towered over her, including me. This diminutive woman could shout out orders like a drill sergeant. I was a daydreamer, and for the most part, tuned her out.
Daydreamer Extraordinaire

One day Miss C. had to go to the principal’s office in the newer brick building that held all the even numbered classes. She gave me the responsibility of taking down the names of disruptive students, the first time I was given the privilege (and the last). I began writing names. I still remember my surprise when she marched over to my desk and forced me out of that dream world I had slipped into. The room had turned into bedlam, with most of the students out of their seats and the noise level chaotic. She demanded to see how many names I had written on the paper. I had two.

Third and fifth grades were on the second floor. The wooden stairs had wear patterns grooved into them from all the students who used them daily. The basement held large rooms on either side used during inclement weather, one for boys and one for girls. Lavatories were also located in the bowels of the earth with separate staircases.

I was used to Miss. C.’s routine. She always called the girls first, and we gathered in line to use the lavatory, go for lunch or recess. When she announced we should line up, without giving it any thought, I stood and got into line. Only this time she called the boys first.

“So you want to be a boy today, Marion?” All the laughter brought me out of my daze, and I tried going back to my seat after catching a few smirks from the boys. But oh, no, Miss C. would have none of that. I had to march out with the boys, and all the time I wondered where we were headed? Which staircase would we go down? Had we been to the lavatories? Were we going to lunch? To my total relief, we headed to the playground for recess.

Miss C. is one of the few teachers I can remember from grammar school, and I hated her for all my humiliations. But I must also thank her because she grounded me so that I saved my day dreaming for those times when I was out of school. Without her, I might not have learned anything while attending classes.

I hope everyone has had a Miss C. in their life.  Did you?

31 comments:

  1. I had Mrs. Sullivan in the 1st grade, who not only humiliated me but terrified me. I didn't learn until years later that she scared other people, too--it wasn't just me. I must also admit that she knew I was bored with 1st grade reading books and sometimes she let me read with the 2nd grade--we were in the same room.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At least we all managed to survive. Miss C. scared me even though she was my height - this little woman in high heels.

      Delete
  2. I had someone very like that, Mrs. Ayers. Love the picture of you. Still looks like you with excitement to brave the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When my youngest granddaughter saw my picture, she insisted it was a picture of her.

      Delete
  3. Marion, I don't think I would have liked Miss C. That photo is adorable - how could she be mean to that face? I think it's nice that you didn't rat out your classmates. I did have one of those wonderfully disciplined teachers in third grade. She was a little scary, yet full of life and love at the same time and eager to teach. She was big on the library and encouraging us all to find books that suited us. She was one of my favorites.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I probably would have ratted out my classmates just to avoid dealing with Miss C.'s screaming.

      Delete
  4. Oh gosh, the picture is adorable, Marion. Yes, I had a Miss C. Her name was Mrs. Buser. She was in her 70's and tough as nails. I was afraid of her, but I learned so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't use my teacher's full name because, although she may be close to 100 by now (if she's still alive) I was afraid she might get back to me.

      Delete
  5. What a poignant story, Marion. I had a Miss C. She was my step-mother. I might have preferred the 9 months with your Miss C!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How awful - a step-mother as awful as Miss C.! At least I could leave Miss C. behind when I went home.

      Delete
  6. First off, LOVE that picture! I can see you in that little girl. :) And oh, boy, did I have Miss C. I had a couple of them (one who shall go unnamed). Sister Damien in High school. Scared the crap out of me, which stalled any hope of me developing any love for history. I wish I could say she taught me a lesson like your Miss C did, but alas, nope. She made the wrong kind of difference in my life. Thankfully I had some other great teachers who had the opposite effect. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Although I can no longer remember most of my grammar school teacher's names, I can remember at least one incident I had in each of my classes. But none dealing with another scary teacher. Thank goodness.

      Delete
  7. We are all in agreement here, Marion. That is the most adorable photo of you! Love it. I'm thinking not of a teacher--though there were many who influenced me--but of my elementary school principal. Mrs. Cram. She stood six feet tall to my tiny stature and was a truly towering presence. Every now and then over the public address system from her office (after morning prayers), she would sing "The Road to Mandalay" in a very robust voice. One day she came into my classroom and announced that I was to be in that day's citywide spelling bee (I was the alternate and the other girl was sick). I bombed out in the first round, probably from sheer terror.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember spelling words I struggled with. Kitchen was one back in fourth grade. Can't imagine hearing The Road to Mandalay every morning.

      Delete
  8. What an adorable picture!! I had a Miss C. She was so stoic and I thought she didn't like me because I was the only minority in her class. I was wrong. She wound up being very fair and gave me a good grade. By the end of the term I'd broken through that tough exterior and had actually seen her smile once or twice. She was a good teacher, and I'm grateful for her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I had more trouble with my children's teachers than I ever did with my own. Except for Miss C., of course.

      Delete
  9. Marion, you were such a cutie! Sister Benoit Joseph in the third grade had a voice like James Earl Jones. She used it at high volume, however, and scared us all spitless. But I fell down once in her classroom and she was like a frantic mom, fanning me, checking me for injury, half-carrying me to my desk and making me rest. Was an interesting glimpse into another side of her. School was very regimented, but we did learn. I've spoken at schools here and am astonished that things get done when kids speak at will and run all over. But they're certainly less cowed than we were. Whether that's good or bad, I'm not sure.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Bad Muriel, take my word for it. I taught abstinence in the schools and a lot of the time I wanted to beat my head against the brick wall.

    I had a Mrs. Rice who rapped my hands because I talked too much. :-)
    You were and still are a cutie!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I can remember the principal with her long wooden ruler whacking the naughty children. Boy, does that date me!

      Delete
  11. Marion, I love, love, love that adorable picture of you!!! Your story touches the heart and after reading everyone's experiences, for some reason, Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter came to mind. She seemed so stern at first, but really loved and cared for the kids, especially Harry. I loved seeing those two sides of her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maggie Smith is such a wonderful actress playing that part. Picture her as her sternest and there you have Miss C.

      Delete
  12. Ditto to what Rula said above about your picture!

    Hmmm . . . my grade 12 English teacher sounds a bit like Miss C.!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks everyone for all the compliments I received on that picture. It's my favorite and the best school picture I ever had taken. That little purse on my dress was made by aunt where I kept my lunch money. Still have it.

      Delete
  13. That photo resembles your granddaughters at that age!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, so much so especially for Michelle. When she saw it, she insisted it was a picture of herself.

      Delete
  14. Sweet picture, but not a sweet story about Mrs. C. I don't ever remember having a terrifying teacher when I was in school, but I taught with a few of them in my teaching career. Whether in the past, present, or future, any teacher who lets her students blurt out and run all over doesn't have classroom management skills. Seen lots of those.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had dealings with so many teachers and have a tremendous amount of respect for them. I almost chose to be one back in college. Had on the job training as part of getting a teacher's degree. Learned right then it wasn't for me, and went back to getting my degree in textiles.

      Delete
  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had the same teacher, only it was first grade, and she was supposedly my mother's friend, only that didn't earn me any slack. She picked on everyone, not just me, and I never got dragged by my ear like some of the boys. I never thought I'd learned anything from that horrible year, until I read your blog. I did learn something: Don't abuse power. Great blog, loved your story. And that little girl looks just like you.

      Delete
  16. My mother had my second grade teacher back when she went to the same school. The teacher took a special interest in me and everyone considered me the teacher’s pet. She made me sit through three lunch periods because I refused to eat the pea soup we were given. She threatened to send it home to my mother and have my mother force me to eat it. Fortunately, she didn’t know my mother very well and I never had to finish the soup.

    ReplyDelete