Friday, July 20, 2007

Was She Wicked?

[a memory evoked by Sunday Scribblings]

I was 9 years old and in 4th grade public school. We had a young teacher, Miss B, who was relatively new to teaching and only in her 1st or 2nd year at our small school.

In our school district we were introduced to instrumental music in the 4th grade. Those who were interested in continuing were then encouraged to join the band starting in 5th grade. The established method was for the entire class (about 20 of us) to learn to play flutophones.

What's a flutophone? Think "cheap plastic recorder." I remember ours as being all black. A web search turned up some models like the one below, the current price seems to be $4. They are touted as easier to play than a recorder.

Having started piano lessons a year or so earlier, I was bored silly. In fact, I think I was probably bored for most of 4th grade. But the music you played by blowing into something was new for me, so it was better than math, science, reading, health, or social studies.

Each of us in the class had one of these. I think our names went on the boxes and after each session, we slipped the flutophone into the box and Miss B put them away until the next lesson.

We learned to read music out of of little books. They were probably something like this:

These were collected into a pile after each lesson and re-distributed randomly. You would think that would work out okay.


It seems that some kid was even more bored than I was. Someone with scissors. Someone who managed to cut a small square out of the middle of a page, miraculously missing all of the notes of the songs on BOTH sides of the page. Although the act of cutting was idiotic, the missing of stuff was stupidly brilliant.

Miss B had no appreciation for this and felt the act needed to be punished. The problem was that she didn't know who had done the deed. Miss B decided to give the guilty party the opportunity to confess. You will not be surprised to hear that no one was jumping at the chance to say "it was me!"

Miss B then decided that the miscreant might be more willing to confess in "private." We were each directed to pull out a piece our standard-issue 8-1/2 x 11-inch ruled notebook paper. We were to fold it in half, then in half again, and to tear it along the folds into quarters. Next we were to write our name on one piece, along with a "yes" or "no" indicating if we used the scissors on the flutophone music book. Finally, we were to fold the paper once, and then the paper was collected by her.

Miss B took them to her desk, opened each while we sat quietly, then had us do it all over because no one had confessed.

This routine took the place of our afternoon recess. And the next morning recess. We were allowed to go outside to play at the noon recess, at least for a couple more days. But by the end of the week, we were not allowed to play during any recess, we just had to endlessly write our names and "no" on pieces of paper.
Peer-pressure was not doing the job.

Even those of us who thought it was wrong to cut out anything from a book lost all respect for Miss B at this point. We were tired of the "punish the whole class" approach, and it was getting her nowhere. I think the siege ended when some of our parents complained. I don't think the mini-vandal ever turned up, although we had our suspects.

Was she wicked? At the time we thought so.

But Miss B did have one redeeming habit. She read to us aloud from C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. That simple act every day enchanted us, even during the "flutophone episode."

Some of us went on to play in the band, most did not. We all moved on to 5th grade - no one flunked or was "held back."

It seems that the year had taken its toll on Miss B. She did not return to our school the next year and we heard that she decided to go back to school. I don't know if that was true or not, but I hope she learned about how not to conduct an investigation. And I hope she kept reading to her students.


Jennifer said...

ah, that was sweet, not wicked at all! I know what you meant though. As a child, it was probably awful! Teaching is no easy task, that poor woman...
Our Grade 2/3 teacher read to us Charlotte's Web everyday...loved it! I hope she kept reading too!

sister AE said...

thanks, Jennifer.

Rob Kistner said...

Entertaining read about the travails of grade school. Reminds me of the time my 7th grade class drove a very timid, 'fresh-out-of-college' teacher to quit mid-year... we ere wicked! ;)

Crafty Green Poet said...

I enjoyed this story!

gautami tripathy said...

Sigh, being a teacher, what can I say?

I liked!

Amber said...

That took me back to 4th grade, and the recorder... great story!

Beautiful Witch said...

I too could see my recorder from primary school - ours were brown and always had this weird smell about the mouth piece and the unfortunate habit of spit coming out of the front!

I think the recorders were wicked, never mind the teacher...

Great post! :)

anni said...

i had a recorder, but your post reminded me of something that was called a "tonette". will have to google that later on.

Patois said...

Your post makes me remember the recorder -- ours, too, was black -- and also the fifth grade teachers trying to track down everyone who had been playing truth or dare behind the quonset hut. We were all ratted out, though, because once one was caught he/she pointed to others.

sister AE said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed this (yes, it's really true) story.