School Days

The posters are hung, the pencils are sharpened, and the acetaminophen  is stocked.   Although there isn’t the slightest nip of fall in the air, the calendar confirms that school begins tomorrow here in West Texas.
Elementary Teachers all around my area have laminated, cut, pasted, and labeled until their fingertips bleed.
Although the calendar confirms it, and the preparations have been made, somehow  it just hasn’t felt real for me. 

I haven’t had the nightmares.   Each year I have them.  They come to me in the few nights before school begins.   The terrifying night terrors of unpreparedness for the first day of school, filled with a room full of uncontrollable children, monsters you might call them.  The empty stack of uncopied papers haunts me,  the incomplete lesson plan book stares blankly at me. The sheer feeling of panic and inadequateness that accompanies these nightmares almost undoes me.

Despite the early morning alarms, the week long inservice, and the ever growing class list,  it hasn’t  felt like the beginning of school until last night.   Last night I was visited in my dreams by children who are too old for my grade, too many students, not enough desks, and what’s with the boy playing the electric drumset in the middle of the classroom who won’t listen to me screaming at him to stop?

And then there’s my feet. Even without the nightmares, they are the tell-tale sign that it is the start of school. No matter how comfy the tennis shoes are, when you go from sitting around swatting flies all summer to actual work, you just can’t help but catch a little flack from the old dogs.

Nightmares and throbbing feet.  There is no more denying that the first day of school is upon me.

Thank goodness for my husband. He’s cooking burgers tonight, bless his heart.   My feet are propped mightily on the couch pillows, bless their hearts.

   Multifunction Foot Spa MassagerAnd my dreams tonight will be filled with the longings of foot baths with bubbling hot water and lavender bath salts combined with massaging action in three different intensities.   I might even invent an Asian man named Dong who possesses great hands. 

What? A girl can dream can’t she?

In Memory of My Dad #25

Being a teacher myself, I found great joy in reading this story written by my dad on July 8, 1995.  How many of you have similar tales?

Why our little community was named “Briggs” by early settlers has been lost in the annals of time, but I was always ready and able to come up with a story as to why in my imaginative mind.

Briggs sits about three miles west of Eldon and about six miles east of Tahlequah on Highway 62.  Briggs lies on a relatively flat piece of ground not far from the Illinois River.  The pride and crowning glory of the community was Briggs School.

The school was a three-room affair, very small by today’s standards.  The first room took care of the first and second grades, and I’m happy to report my first grade teacher was a lovely young thing called Miss Jewell.  She was wonderful—pretty, young, and she smelled good.  What more could you ask for in a teacher?

I loved her so much that I had a hard time lining up with the others on my graduation from the second grade for a good-bye hug.  I remember running home and grabbing a huge piece of chocolate cake and going to bed to console myself with food.  (Having followed this practice religiously throughout my life, I can tell you that it’s a lot less expensive and easier on the body than tranquilizers and whiskey.) 

We were graduating on to the next room—a room filled with third, fourth and fifth graders, grizzled veterans of the school of higher learning.  Some said we were to find out what schooling was all about.  I had some trepidation about leaving the confines of Miss Jewell’s room because the third, fourth and fifth was taught by the toughest, meanest human being ever to embrace professional education.  It was gut check time.

We loved to hate this loathsome creature to whom the best-read of us referred to as “Miss Lizzie” (of Lizzie Borden fame) because it was rumored that she had hacked a couple of her charges to death.  In those days teachers chastised their students any way they saw fit, short of capital punishment and we weren’t sure that Miss Lizzie didn’t have special dispensation from the pope to invoke the death penalty.

Her favorite way of dispensing torture was to pull your hair.  And believe me it hurt.  Most of the denizens of the third, fourth or fifth grade had their mane rearranged by Miss Lizzie.  I myself had a head full of lovely brunette curls that seemed to daily catch the wrath of Miss Lizzie.

We had a couple of boys in the fifth grade who should have been in the 10th or 11th grade, but they had missed a lot of school time due to such things as hauling hay or driving a tractor.  These were just good old boys, meaner than junkyard dogs, and the rest of Miss Lizzie’s third, fourth, and fifth graders followed them slavishly down the path to wickedness.

Toward the last day of school, one of these guys came up with a foolproof plan which he felt in all probability would kill Miss Lizzie.  If it didn’t kill her, it would undoubtably result in her spending her remaining days in Eastern State Hospital at Vinita.  (He no doubt spent many hours praying about it, and received an answer from above.)  In those days breakdowns were not all that uncommon in the field of education.  As a matter of fact, they are not all that uncommon today.

Now the success of this plan hinged greatly on the fact that Miss Lizzie had made a deal with one of the few traitors in school to bring her a pint of raw milk each day to augment her sack lunch.  This was in the days before the school lunch program reared its ugly head.  Most of the kids had milk cows at home, but I would have rotted in Hades before I would have brought this teacher any kind of sustenance.

One day at recess the leader of this foul gang of reprobates filled us in on the plan.  It was beautiful—simplicity in motion, and in our own little black hearts we knew it could not fail.

The entire three grades were sworn to secrecy and the TREATMENT as we liked to call our project was to go into effect on April first.

On day one of the TREATMENT one of the older boys who thought of the scheme, surreptitiously dropped a small pebble into the milk.  Miss Lizzie choked and sputtered a bit, but she got the milk down and couldn’t proved a thing.

The traitor that delivered the milk was told to report the incident to her parents, who assured Miss Lizzie that they would be more careful in the future. 

Day two was a little worse, two roly-poly bugs were put into her milk, and while she was attacking our hair, one of the perpetrators removed the bugs, so she had no further proof.

Day three saw the end of the TREATMENT, and God help me, it was beautiful.  When Miss Lizzie opened the lid to the mason jar, she spied a small mouse frantically doing the breast stroke, trying to escape.

As we say in the hills, she cut and ran, straight to the principal’s office and fell into his arms babbling incoherently.

We liked the new teacher well enough, except for the part of writing Miss Lizzie get well notes up to Eastern State.  Finally we had to stop that because she kept screaming something about rodents in her milk and making a complete mess of the room by tearing the notes into a million pieces.

Our hearts soared at that bit of news.

Bob Briggs
January 16, 1943-February 26, 2011

I got fans!

One of my students wrote a story about me.  I thought I’d share.  It’s not perfect, which makes it precious.  Before you judge me as a teacher who cannot teach spelling and grammar, please let me give this small disclaimer:  In the writing process, we encourage children to get their thoughts down on paper and write with voice.  If too much emphasis is put on perfect spelling, children are inhibited and will only write the words they know how to spell instead of taking risks and using larger vocabulary.  That tends to limit them as writers.  During the editing and revising stage of the writing process is when we polish it up and fix all the errors. 
This story is entitled  “all about mis. wheeler an me”  by a precious little blonde cowgirl in my room.  Here goes:

Transcription after some editing in case you’re not yet a pro at reading phonetical spelling:  Me and Mrs. Wheeler are the same. We both like riding horses. We both get short tempered when people interrupt us.  I just, I love my teacher.  I would not go to a different classroom.  But she is too classy.  She always wears dresses that are classy.  I love you Mrs. Wheeler.  You are the best teacher ever!

Another disclaimer:  Really, really, I’m not terribly short tempered.  Not too terribly anyway.  It’s just that I’d had a certain little boy talking out of turn entirely too much.  Right before this writing lesson, I had sternly pointed my finger and reprimanded him about interrupting me.  I guess it was perceived as a bit short tempered.  Maybe a little.

See?  That is a classy green dress.  See my green bunny slippers I’m wearing?  See I’m smiling.  I do smile at kids. 
On occasion.

Aren’t kids the cutest?  Makes me almost want to have one.  And then I go stick my head in the microwave.