Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Lesson in Contradictions

In an open space school, it is expected that you keep your attention in your own classroom area, but sometimes it just isn't possible. However, as my son and I always read in the Captain Underpants books, "Before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this story:"

There were only two fourth grade teachers in my elementary school, and almost no one looked forward to being there. Mrs. Mu– and Mrs. P– were probably the sternest (and most feared) teachers in the school. The journey through fourth grade was an important rite of passage. If you could survive that, the rest of your educational life would be a snap.

I had Mrs. P– for math, and Mrs. Mu– for everything else.

Mrs. P– had short, sort of gray hair that probably spent each evening imprisoned in curlers. She was a formidable woman with a habit of calling all us girls "girlie." (I don't remember what she called the boys.) Poking kids in the chest during a reprimand was another of her habits. No one, and I mean no one, dared to even so much as sniffle out of turn in her room. Woe to those who got on Mrs. P–'s bad side. But, if you worked hard and did your best, she could be your fiercest supporter. Mind you, it wasn't a warm and fuzzy sort of support, but she did have your back.

Mrs. M– also had a reputation as a no-nonsence woman. She had dyed, dark brown hair that she piled up on her head in a sort of low-profile beehive. Every other day of the year, she was known to crack a joke or two, or even smile, but she was rather sparing with both.

However, Mrs. Mu– broke the mold each year on one day, and one day only: St. Patrick's Day, the day keeping your eyes in your own room became virtually impossible for everyone in the pod, except Mrs. Mu–'s students. Every March 17 (or as close as she could get, if it fell on a weekend), she made a grand entrance to her classroom dressed head-to-toe in a kelly green leprechaun suit! She played traditional Irish music as she danced Irish jigs. She spoke with an Irish accent, and smiled and laughed (laughed, I tell you!) as she cracked leprechaun jokes. She read aloud Irish stories, and was generally in a fantastic mood all day.

Once March 17th had passed, though, it was back to business as usual.

Fourth grade... it was something else...

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