Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Dare to be naive."  ~ Buckminster Fuller
Some of you are probably thinking…  Who is this Terry Waldron person who thinks she can just decide to write a blog… WITHOUT PICTURES, no less!!!  What background for teaching does she have, anyway??? Glad you asked…

When you’re in university studying to be a teacher, the time comes when you have to put it all on the line…  Yes, I’m talking STUDENT TEACHING! In those days at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln that meant teaching a class at the University Laboratory High School (I think that was the name, anyway). Most of the students there were the kids of the professors and assistant profs at the university. Is that really good experience for practicing to teach?  I don’t know.  It’s where I was assigned, though, and off I went.

There were 4 of us student-teachers of art that semester: two guys, me, and an old lady who we thought was definitely too old to become a new teacher. Good Lord! She was 35 years old! We all were given our assignments for which period we’d be teaching. There were four classes of art to teach in that school every day, there were four of us student-teachers, and there was one art room. Timing was of the essence. Each of us had to prepare the room for whatever medium we were using each day, teach the class, clean up the room, and get out in time for the next student-teacher to begin… or end, as it happened that year…

My class was great! All of those 19 sophomores had been eager to learn drawing, painting, and collage. Now they were building clay pots, my personal specialty during this, my senior year of university.They hand-coiled some beautiful pieces. I let their pots dry slowly for a few days, and then stacked the huge professional out-door wood-burning kiln with their work, and fired them. 

Three days later they were cooled enough to come out of the kiln, and I could hardly wait until my class came in. When they saw their pots, they were thrilled! Students were chattering and showing off their beautiful creations to each another, when one tall, lanky boy came up to me with huge grin on his face. “Miss Kingston!  My Mom always told me that I wouldn’t have a pot to piss in, but wait ‘til I show her this! Now I’ve got one! ” Hmmm… It was none of my business what that boy was going to use that pot for, anyway! The question in my mind was… Will I be FIRED for allowing a student to use that word in class???

One day the student-teaching professor called me into his office. He said that there was a big problem… I shrank down in my chair, trying to remember if I’d done anything untoward… He said, “Not with YOU!” It seemed that “the old lady” student-teacher had a class of juniors and seniors, and she just wasn’t “cutting the mustard,” as he put it.  (Mustard is my MOST favorite condiment, and I’d never liked that phrase…) “She quit! I want you to take over her class, Terry!”

“Me?  Really…?  Well, I guess so… yes, I can do that... I guess I can…”And I did, the very next day. That night, though, I kept thinking how could one teacher teach TWO completely different classes back-to-back like that…? (Silly child… Wait a few years and you’ll be teaching seven classes a day, EACH class a different subject… silly twit!)

Now, there’s a way to come into a class mid-term and take it over… but it takes years and years of teaching to perfect it. It’s called the “teacher look” in the profession. You stand at the front of the room full of noisy, unsettled students who don’t know you from Adam, plant your feet about as far apart as your shoulders are, cross your arms in front of you, narrow your eyes, stare straight at the noisiest student, and FREEZE! Works every time!  You don’t say a word, mind you… NOT A WORD! Don’t MOVE! Soon, a student here, a student there, will say, “HUSH UP!” to the class… You stay planted, staring. Others take up the shushing and always the class gets quiet…  Don’t MOVE, though… not yet… Wait until 30 consecutive seconds of perfect silence go by, and then, in a firm, but kindly voice, go right into your lesson. Oh, and you can move now… slowly, though, at first. Mustn’t re-ignite the sleeping tiger in the room.

Well, I didn’t know about the “teacher look,” and I wouldn’t perfect it for several years. I did what my Mom used to do… I yelled at ‘em! They were curious about who I was, and were checking me out to see exactly what tack they were going to take with me.

As it turned out, they grew to like me and even respect me somewhat. Best of all, they learned to make contour drawings, even blind contour drawings, and they were gooood!

It was getting late in the semester, and one of the senior boys in this class had found out that my first name was Terry, and he actually called me “Terry” one day! I told him that I was “Miss Kingston” to him, and he grinned. Every day he got a little chummier, and he called me “Terry!” That always got a rise out of me, and he’d grin.  

One day he stayed after class as I was hurriedly cleaning up the room before the next batch of kids came in. He said that he had a question to ask me.  I said, “What is it?”

“Would you be my date to the prom? It’s in three weeks. I don’t have a car, but we could go on my motorcycle. I’d really like you to come… will you?”

“Of course not!  I’m your teacher!  You can’t ask me something like that!” I walked out in a huff… mostly because I was shy, anyway, and I had no idea how to handle the situation. You can’t pull out the “teacher look” for something like that, after all, can you?

But I thought about it… Not about going with him to the prom… of course NOT! But you know, he was 18 years old, and I was only 20 years old. I’d started school at 4 ½, and I’d always been one of the youngest kids in each grade.  He was very good-looking, smart, and nice, and I was the TEACHER, so, of course, I couldn’t go… I couldn’t even think about it! However, that was the strangest situation I’d ever been in.

The next day in class he laughed it off, and I acted like it had never happened. But what I realized was that real-live teaching wasn’t as easy as it had been when I was nine years old in the backyard “playing” teacher with the kids in the neighborhood as my students… 
When the semester was over, the professor called each of us in to his office, separately, to discuss our grade for student-teaching. I walked spritely into his office, sure of an “A” and even some praise for my teaching TWO classes for a whopping total of 42 students EVERY DAY! What a saint I was! What glowing words was he going to grace me with… Now, be modest, Terry, even though you know you were “born to the purple!”

“Hello, Miss Kingston,” he said. “Your grade for this semester’s student-teaching will be a “B.” Any questions?” And he stared at my facial pores, rife with black-heads.  “Hello…  hello…  Miss Kingston… Are you there?”

Oh, I was “there” all right!  I was THERE!  I WAS THEEEERRRRRRE!

“A BEEEEEEEE???????”

“Yes, Miss Kingston, a B.”

“WHY???  I taught my class, and I took over that other lady’s class!  The kids liked me and they learned a lot! I taught TWO WHOLE CLASSES!  A BEEEE?”

He looked at me and smiled…  “Finally, you’re fighting for something!” he said.

I didn’t have the faintest idea what he was talking about and I still don’t.  What did that have to do with my teaching? What was going on?  The world had made a complete revolution without me.

“What grade do you think you deserve, Miss Kingston?”

“I deserve an A!”

“Well, I’ m going to give you an A, Miss Kingston.”

GIVE me an A?  GIVE me an A!  I’d earned that grade… I DESERVED that grade…  That grade was MINE, I thought.

“Oh, and by the way, Miss Kingston, my wife has big pores like you do, but a person gets used to seeing them.  Don’t worry too much about them…” And he called in the next student-teacher.

1 comment:

  1. P.S. I'd been humiliated by my horrid acne scars for soooo long, but it had never occured to me 'til then that I was being judged on my pore-size, too. Sheeeesh!