Being a natural show off probably contributed to my love of teaching. I also enjoy singing to people and presiding at meetings.
Tony and I had agreed early on that once we had children, I would stay at home with them and I never regretted that. Right after we married, Tony’s cousin, a teacher, needed serious surgery. She asked me to substitute teach for her and I did, though I never got paid for it. [She was supposed to pay me out of her salary.] The Principal, Mr. Caine, and I got along well, partly at least, because the class went smoothly and there were no problems.
Years later, Bruce and Dee transferred to the school where Mr. Caine was principal when we moved to a new home. Mr. Caine asked if I would teach for him? No way. Then he asked if I would substitute teach? Yes, but only in emergencies. Our agreement was he would only call me as a last resort but then I would come without question. I agreed to this because I went to school with my own kids and came home with them.
About 8:30 one morning, Mr. Caine called and said his 7th grade had just run off their third substitute and he had an important meeting downtown. On my way, I said and was there 15 minutes later. When I arrived, I announced to the class that they had run off their last teacher. After finding the ringleader, I marched him to the office, loudly proclaiming to the secretary, mailman, maids, and assorted parents that this child had refused to mind his teacher! I said he could just spend the day in the office because I did not want to see his face again! The secretary and I managed to keep from giggling. I had no more trouble that day. The next day, I had the boy sit by me and help me with the roll call, lunch money etc and we became friends.
That next day, while saying the pledge, I noticed a big girl sitting and drawing in her notebook. When I questioned her she said she didn’t believe in the pledge. Well, I told her I couldn’t make her believe it but I certainly didn’t have to watch her disrespect it either. Into the hall she went, standing until we finished the morning exercises and other things for about an hour. Now, when I see our so called president fail to put his hand over his heart when the flag passes etc, I think, I’d like to have had him in my schoolroom as a boy. But his early years were spent with his white mother, in a foreign country.
In South Carolina, when I was teaching there, spanking was allowed and even expected when kids acted up. Very rarely, one of my 5th grade boys would start out on Monday and by Friday, would be on a very high horse, indeed. I’d have been through all my tricks of talking, keeping him after school etc. Sometimes it worked but not always. This Friday, I told Jimmy he was going to get a spanking if he didn’t behave. Well, he said, his Dad was on the school board and if I spanked him, I’d get fired. “Oh, if that’s the case and I am about to be fired, I’ll make sure you have one spanking you won’t forget,” I replied - so he got four whacks with the bolo paddle instead of three.Of course I never heard from his parents at all. It would have been nice if they’d showed up and taken more interest in this child and his older sister. They were prominent people.
Back then, in the dark ages, teachers never wore pants. We wore stockings and leather shoes, not the comfortable shoes available now. We were not supposed to be seen smoking so I went for years trying to break the habit of holding my cigarette under the table when eating out. Parents smoked but teachers were not allowed. Any teacher who had “started showing” being pregnant, was dismissed. I did not smoke very much, maybe one pack per week, all I could afford back then anyway. The last cigarette I lit was on January 1, 1999.
I truly believe that the day any teacher tries to present him or herself as perfect or knowing everything, they are setting themselves up for a fall. Actually, the same goes for parents. The first week of school, or Bible School, or Brownie Scout Leader, or Adult Sunday School teacher, or various other activities, I tried to assure folks that I will definitely make mistakes and, if done politely, they are encouraged to point them out to me. For me, the old fashioned blackboard was a helpful teaching tool. However, just one squiggle out of place in your penmanship will produce that same squiggle about thirty times in the next two days. There was only one perfect human. I am not him and I used to assure my late husband that, in spite of what his Mama thought, neither was he.
One year when we were living in Augusta, I organized a Brownie Scout Troop because I wanted Dee to have that experience. I went to all the training sessions then invited a few little girls in our neighborhood to join. I don’t remember the maximum number allowed in a troop but I’ll just guess twelve. It was pitiful! Every little girl in our neighborhood wanted to join and they were going to be crushed for life if not included. So we ended up with about 18 or 20. Since we met in our family room, it was always crowded and difficult to arrange activities. So I decided that field trips would be fun but there was a problem. Most of the mothers had promptly made plans to entertain themselves while I babysat their little darlings. We took one trip to Colonial Bakery with the outside help of some of my friends. The bakery people were great and after guiding the unwieldy group back to an area where we were served Honey buns etc, our guide asked if there were any questions. Yes, one little girl [who had been talking the entire time] asked, “How do you make bread?”
Going back to my teaching years, for years, the area superintendant in the small town where I taught, and his very loved and lovely wife, hosted a picnic dinner for all his teachers and spouses. It was quite a large crowd but it was served buffet style and there were lots of picnic tables set up in their huge back yard. This was just after school started, in September, when daytime temps were usually between 90 and 100 degrees. Well, we went of course. Sometime during that night Tony became violently ill with a stomach virus and was up most of the night.
I went on to school the next day and found tons of children --- and no principal and no teachers. I got the kids inside and into their rooms. The principal ran in, unlocked the office, and said he and his entire family had been up all night and were still sick. He and his wife had carried their four kids to the dinner with them. He only stayed a minute and went back home. Finally, I was able to answer the office phone where the teachers were calling in sick. The first grade teacher said she would try to come and she did. So she ran her end of the school and I ran the other. No point trying to find subs as nearly every teacher in town was sick. I didn’t like ham salad then and wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole after that experience. That was the only food Tony ate that I didn’t. I’ve always felt so bad for the supt and his wife, knowing how very hard they’d worked to do something nice for the teachers.
Back in my mother’s and Tony’s mother’s time, teaching was one of the few options for college women who wanted careers. Home Economics was another. My mother majored in Home Ec. and Cordelia, Tony’s mom, majored in Education. Mother and two of her sisters and Cordelia and, I believe, two of her sisters, all went to Bessie Tift College, in Forsyth, Ga., a Baptist college. My Aunt Hazel went to the University of Georgia - called The State Normal College for Women, back then. It was located on Prince Ave in Athens, Georgia and had housed soldiers and been a hospital during The War Between The States. Aunt Hazel had stayed in Miller Hall, as did I my freshman year at UGA. Several of them taught school and my Aunt Jenny taught German at Tift College.
Cordelia got called back to teach during WW2. Tony used to say that the hardest year of school in his entire life was when his mother was his teacher. She told me that it always took her about two hours in a dark room to feel human after teaching all day. It was not quite that difficult for me but then I loved teaching. Also, I believe she had two older sons in the military at that time.
My dad was a professional baseball player so that meant he had winters off. He taught school in a one room schoolhouse in or near the north Georgia mountains. He often talked to me about those days and how much he enjoyed it. He said he had to study hard at nights to keep ahead of all the different subjects and try to keep the kids interested. One result of his teaching was that all of the big boys who had quit school, came back because they wanted to be with him and learn to play ball. He always laughed and said he never had any trouble at all .If the kids got restless, he declared recess and they played a “little ball”. At 6ft 4in and 220 lbs , one would not expect any trouble. Actually, he was a very gentle person but it never seemed to occur to him that a child would have to be told the same thing twice nor did he raise his voice. I’m sure he was a wonderful teacher. My brother, Don, often reminds me of my dad.
To me, it is a shame that today’s teachers are so regulated. They feel sorry for themselves if they have twenty students – I always had 30-40. I also was with my class from 7:30-3:30 without a break – no assistants, no one else to take my class. As public schools go, Atlanta schools are good as far as I can tell from dealing with Alesia and Mike. We’ve only encountered a couple of bad apples. One of those should be teaching college courses or improve her teaching methods for younger students. I think it speaks well for a school that Alesia loves going and hates to miss a day.
I am grateful that there are still teachers who enjoy teaching because it is surely one of the most important jobs there is anywhere.
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