Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sunday Musings: June 8 2014

This is my daughter's last year at her grade school, moving from grade 6 to 7. And I understand some of the States are already in their summer vacations. Plus I know we have a few teachers here.
I’m lucky enough to still be friends with my grade 1 teacher, Norma. Took forever to feel comfortable using her first name. I still remember her crying the last day of school. If ever someone was meant to be a teacher, it was Norma.

Mr. T was my high school English teacher. He would sit at the front of the class and whisper in order for us to shush. Never failed. He was also very supportive in my desire to write. To this day I will still sit in a dark room and write was comes…now it’s easier with my led pen, yup a mini flashlight down by the pen point.

How do you feel about musing on your favourite teacher? Let's give a shout out to the (more) teacher(s) who have left their positive impression on us.

This one is easy.  I don't even have to think.  The prize goes to Sr. Richard Maureen, the literature teacher at my high school, St. Francis Xavier Academy here in Brooklyn, NY.  She was brilliant and full of love for her subject and managed to inspire even those who were not bookworms.  For Shakespeare,  always difficult for teenagers not previously exposed to his work, she would bring in recordings of the plays, take us to performances and movies, draw diagrams to show relationships among characters.  Of course, readers like my particular  friends (ladies who remain my close friends all these years later) really hit it off with her.  The fact that we read CRIME AND PUNISHMENT and FATHERS AND SONS over our summer vacation for pleasure and discussed them thoroughly among ourselves did not hurt.  The fact that Sr. Richard and I got into such an involved discussion of CRIME AND PUNISHMENT one period that the scheduled quiz was forgotten was well received by my classmates.  (The test was given the next day with CRIME AND PUNISHMENT questions added.)

I am happy to say that Sr. Richard Maureen remains well with mind and wit sharper than ever, and we have lunch with her several times a year.  She is now 92 and remains in touch with many grateful, loving former students.

My favorite teacher was my third grade teacher. She showed me how school could be fun. Until her class I had been bored in reading. I used to read ahead in the reading book and got done so much faster than everyone else. In my third grade class my teacher started us on individualized reading and we could read any book we wanted. We could read as much as we wanted also. All we had to do was write down the title and author of the book and a sentence about how we felt about the book. We had a special notebook and mine got filled up almost completely. I went wild reading everything I could. I read fiction and began to read non fiction too.

Besides reading she helped me to write my first poem, for which I will always be grateful to her. My poem made its way into the School Bulletin and it was the first time I was ever published. I remember her taking me up to her desk and working with me on getting the words right. My mother loved it so much she carried it around her whole life. I fell in love with writing in third grade and we never really parted. Except of course for the agonizing years between third grade and when I graduated college. I didn’t think my writing was any good until after I was married and started writing poetry again.

I wish she were here to see me as a published author.

DAWN KNOX, author

I'm not sure she was my favourite teacher but she was certainly the one who I remember most.

The first time I encountered her, I was 11 years old. She walked into the class and as we stood up, she slammed her books on the desk, seized a piece of chalk and while she attacked the blackboard with it, she barked "My name is Miss Joynes. J O Y N E S, Good morning, class,"

"Good morning, Miss Joynes," we bleated and sank nervously on to our seats - I think my legs may actually have given way.  Having established the ground rules in that one short sentence, we knew who was the boss and with that understanding, she taught us the delights of English grammar and literature for the next five years.

I suppose it's telling that at the first opportunity, I stopped studying English in favour of Physics, Chemistry and Zoology but on the other hand, after a career in medical science, what am I doing now? Writing.

I don't know what happened to Miss Joynes, who later married my Physics teacher to become Mrs. Hasler but I'd really love her to know that I am now a published author and that I was paying attention in her lessons.

Thanks Miss Joynes/Mrs Hasler, I am really grateful for everything you taught me.

I was fortunate enough to have several memorable teachers, but three of them are my favorites. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Cartwright, introduced me to Art. I’d flirted with it before, but never seriously. In her class we learned about its history while listening to classical music and drawing with pastels. My seventh grade history teacher, Mr. Coopwood is responsible in part for my love of history. The man could talk about the distant past and make you feel like he’d experienced it firsthand. Mr. Klauer, my English teacher in my freshman year of high school, taught me to love words. He also read my first feeble attempts at writing and encouraged me to continue. 

In response to this week’s Sunday Musings, I was able to look up Mrs. Gallagher, who was my fourth grade teacher in the 1957-58 school year. She has graciously agreed to an interview.

Me: (All smiles). Welcome Mrs. Gallagher—

Mrs. Gallagher: Who are you again?

Me: Kenneth Hicks, Mrs. Gallagher. You may remember me as “Kenny” Hicks.

Mrs. Gallagher: (Glaring). Oh, yes. I remember you all right. Didn’t I tell your mother you would be a gang leader one day at the rate you were going?

Me: (Smile fading). Mrs. Gallagher, I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that I’ve written a book. Actually several books.

Mrs. Gallagher: Does that mean you learned how to spell? (laughs snidely).

Me: That’s an interesting question, Mrs. Gallagher. Was I a poor speller in fourth grade?

Mrs. Gallagher: (Can’t stop laughing now. Coughs. Wheezes.)

Me: We can move on, Mrs. Gallagher. Here’s a copy of my latest book. I wrote it with my wife, Anne Rothman-Hicks.

Mrs. Gallagher: Well that explains a lot. I suppose she can spell?

Me: She went to Bryn Mawr College, Mrs. Gallagher.

Mrs. Gallagher: Bryn Mawr? Well well. So one part of this author business is explained, but an even bigger question remains. Why in the world did she marry you? (Starts laughing again)

Me: I wrote a little something for you inside the cover, Mrs. Gallagher.

“Thank’s for all the wonderfull memories.”

Mrs. Gallagher: (Mrs. Gallagher is laughing so hard she falls off the chair as she marks up my inscription with a blood-red pencil and gives me an “L” which is the lowest grade they gave in elementary school. I leave her there on the floor and go looking for my third grade teacher, Miss Hamel. Now there was a teacher!).

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at


Anonymous said...

Although I became a teacher for my job, I was terrified of teachers when I was a kid. Actually, I was terrified of being called on and giving the wrong answer. My all-time fav teacher wasn't until I was 16. My English teacher kept me after class. I tried and tried to think what I'd done wrong. He wanted to ask me why I was satisfied with C's (or lower) when I was such a smart kid. I turned around to see who else was in the room that he was speaking to. He was the first teacher who believed in me. From then on I received A's, and not just in English. A little bit of confidence in someone goes a long way. -- Sandy Carlson

Wendy said...

Anne and Ken, I'm sure Mrs Gallagher would be delighted to read your fiction. You made me smile.