Tuesday, September 6, 2016

School Days, School Days...by Gail Roughton

"School days, school days, dear old Golden Rule Days....". Well, the country's school kids are back in school now, most of them a lot earlier than those of us of a certain generation ever walked back down those long hall. Doesn't Fall take you back? The smell of school has to be one of the most distinctive smells in the world, even if chalk doesn't really feature in the medley of aromas anymore, having given way to to dry erase markers and computer screens.

But no matter the technology employed, those heroes and heroines of the classrooms we call teachers still strive to shape and form the minds of the next generation. And where would we be without them? I was lucky. Looking back, I don't think I ever had a bad teacher in my life, but I think everyone has one or two teachers they'll never forget, teachers without whom they wouldn't be the individuals they are today. 

I had Miss Louise Parker. Yes, Miss.  Not Ms. See, back in the dark ages when I was in grammar school, Ms. hadn't been thought of yet.  Ladies were either Miss or Mrs., and in a child's pronunciation, there wasn't a lot of difference in sound between the two, but Miss Parker was truly a Miss. She'd never been married and she lived with her sister in an old house in a little town about thirty miles away from the school. A former college English professor, she chose to leave the politics and drama of college behind and teach seventh grade at a little rural grammar school named Florence Bernd Elementary, back in the days when grammar school was first through seventh grade and Junior High started with the eighth grade. And no, I never did know the story behind that decision.  

I don't, in fact, even have any idea how old she was at the time I walked through the doors of her Seventh Grade classroom. She was an institution herself at the time. She'd taught seventh grade at Florence Bernd for years, she'd always looked exactly the same, from her straight skirt, white blouse and sensible shoes to her short gray hair and black rimmed glasses. Most of the kids were petrified of her, even back in the day when school authority was absolute, a teacher was judge, jury and executioner and woe, woe unto you if you were sentenced to the principal's office. But for some reason, Miss Parker never scared me, and I was probably one of the few kids who actually wanted the start of school roll call to assign me to Miss Parker's room.  

Because of Miss Parker, I never learned another bit of English grammar after the seventh grade, not even in college, because I didn't need to.  And let me tell you something, folks, a noun does not name. A noun is a word that names a person, place, object or thing.  Likewise, a verb does not denote action or state of being.  A verb is a word that denotes action or state of being.  If I close my eyes, I can hear her voice now, and no, patient's not the word I'd use to describe it, repeating the litany that was so driven into my brain I did it with all three of my kids during homework help and I'm doing it now with my grandson.  A noun (or verb or pronoun or adjective or adverb or whatever part of speech) does not do anything. Because it's a word that does--whatever part of speech that word is does.  

Miss Parker taught for several years after I left her classroom for the halls of higher education, but as I recall, she did retire relatively soon thereafter. I hope she knew how much impact she had on all the generations of children she taught, and I really, really wish she could have read my books. Here's to you, Miss Parker, and to all the Miss, Mrs., Ms. and Mr. Parkers in all school rooms everywhere. I like to think you'd be proud, especially of this one...

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Published by Books We Love, Ltd.