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Monday, March 12, 2012

Authority Figures: Teacher, Miss A

     “The first thing today, Class, I want to draw your attention to the blackboard on my right.” Miss A really did not need such directional info as, one-by-one, each of my Sixth Grade classmates noticed the additional vertical line at the far left as we took our seats. What did Detention mean, anyway? “Mrs. C and I have decided that we will begin a new way to help the pupils behave better in the classroom. The rule will be the same in each class so when you are in Mrs. C’s class, you’ll not be confused. She’ll keep record for me and I’ll keep record for her when her class is in here. Do you all understand?”

     We shook our heads that we had, indeed, understood this first part of the explanation… we could not get away with whatever it was they were going to prevent regardless of room. Next year we would be in the Seventh Grade, which would mean a new building and each subject would be taught by a different teacher, in a different classroom. To help prepare us for the change from everything being taught by one teacher in one room, the administration had elected to have the sixth graders move from one class to the other for English. It was quite an orderly passing of the two lines of young 11-year-olds actually. At first, it felt a lot like having a substitute teacher for an hour a day.

     “If you need to be reprimanded for talking in class, or misbehaving in any way, your name will go in that space behind the red chalk line. It’ll mean you need to make up fifteen minutes of time by staying in for recess or coming in early from lunch break. If you’re reprimanded a second time before your name’s been erased, I’ll put a checkmark next to your name. Each check mark equals fifteen more minutes you’ll need to make up. Time may also be made up after school, as long as I am here.” Some of the frequent-offenders cringed at her words, while the rest of us waited to hear more of the rules. A brave young soul shot his right arm in the air and was recognized by Miss A.

     “What will we have to do for the fifteen minutes?” Murmurs scattered around the room at his good question. Maybe it wouldn’t be all that bad to stay in, if it was raining, for example.

     “You will need to work on exercises I will prepare for you or begin your homework… something like that. You’ll not be allowed to speak during that time, except if you have a question for me about the assignment.” Ugh! This did not sound like it’d be better than recess; that’s for sure. A second hand waved and was recognized to Miss A’s right.

     “Can we just make up the fifteen minutes after school and still get to go out for recess?” All over the room little whispers indicated that was a great idea because some kids had chores to do after school. Could work out pretty good – a good excuse out of chores, right?

     “No, the time would only be made up at recess or lunch break unless the pupil had so many checkmarks that he would not be able to make up the time in that report card period.” A collective gasp went up at the very suggestion that a kid would be inside for every recess for six weeks and still not have made up his time! Oh, this was not good. Was it legal to do that to a kid?

     In those days, there was not much talk of the rights of a child, though one would have to be sent to the Principal’s office if corporal punishment would be meted out. It was rare, indeed. (My mother had kept us in wide-eyed horror with tales of her own educational experience where missing a question in class could result in a cane slapped across her outstretched hand.) Legal or not, good for us or not, names collected in that vertical column, several with added checkmarks. Mine was, occasionally, written on the board, though it was usually in response to someone talking to me; I just couldn’t resist giving an answer. I had a hard time ending any conversation I was into, so my name found its way onto the board on those occasions coming in from recess, too.

     One day, as I looked at the growing detention list and many checkmarks, an idea flashed in my mind!

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