A teacher remembers
(From April 25, 1985)
A school teacher forgets most of the children she teaches. She remembers only the very good and the very bad ones, the very bright and the very dull ones and the ones with special personalities that make them outstanding.
Such a one was Mary Anne. She was of just normal intelligence, but she tried very hard. She took her school work seriously and she was anxious to please her teacher.
She sat on a front seat, near my desk, and whenever I looked up, Mary Anne would give me her sweet, adoring smile. I really think she loved me.
Mary Anne was always ready to help. She appointed herself the caretaker of the 16 geranium plants in our room. She kept them watered and removed any yellow leaves.
One day she announced that her parents were moving to Iowa and she would be leaving school. I was sorry.
On her last day at school, Mary Anne brought me a parting gift. It was a little ceramic lady in a pink bouffant skirt. In her arms she held a black and white puppy. Tied to the lady’s arm was a card bearing this note: “To a wonderful teacher, Love, Mary Anne.”
Twenty years later, that little doll still stands on my dresser. The note is still attached. I’ll never forget Mary Anne.
And then there was Andy. He was purely an imp of Satin, bad as he could be. But he had an endearing quality, too. I could be mad enough to kill him and he would grin at me with his black eyes twinkling and I would melt.
At first, when I could stand him no longer and he was disrupting the class, I would send him to the principal’s office, but I soon learned that he liked that. The principal made him sit on a chair and he watched all the comings and goings.
It was better than being in class. He didn’t learn much, but I promoted him at the end of the year. There was nothing to be gained by holding him back.
The Eddlemon brothers were the dumbest kids I ever taught, except for George, whom I’ll discuss later. Billy and Johnny Eddlemon couldn’t learn anything. I sent them to special reading classes and gave them as much private time as I could, but they couldn’t read, got their arithmetic problems wrong, and seldom got a spelling word right.
When their mother came to school for conferences, she would tell me that she sat at the kitchen table with the boys every night and made them write their spelling words and do their arithmetic problems. I didn’t believe a word of it. I pushed them along, as the teachers before me had done. They were hopeless.
And then there was George. He couldn’t learn anything, but he had a saving grace. He was a very fine artist. After several weeks of working with him and getting nowhere, I gave up and let him sit and draw all day.
The drawings he turned out were remarkable. He had a good sense of color and line, and his shading was superb. He seemed to understand the laws of convergence without ever having been taught them.
When we had parents’ night at school, I put up the other children’s arithmetic, English, spelling and geography papers. But I put up George’s drawings, all over the place. His parents beamed with pride, as well they might.
I like to think that today George is making a living as a commercial artist.
Both George and the Eddlemon boys should have been in a special school where the teachers have very small classes and can give pupils individual attention. In that town at that time there was no such facility.