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.
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?