Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Joe and Norman (School Yard Days)

Imagine this... a bunch of musicians just happen to be vibing with each other, and they start spontaneously to jam, and the resulting beat and melody is so in sync that you really couldn’t have planned it better. Have you seen this video on Youtube btw? It is kind of what I mean.

That video came to my mind when my awesome co-facilitators told me what happened a couple weeks ago when I was out of town: our seniors ended up telling stories about the same topic! This was a surprise because one of the things I believe in and speak at length about in our Facilitator Training Guide is that we never give out prompts to the group. Picking the topic is the first step to telling your story, and we want our seniors to express themselves with total and complete freedom every time they sit at our table. What happens every week is that we have quiet time when everyone writes, then one by one everyone reads out loud what has already been committed to paper – and it was during the read-out-loud time that the group slowly realized everyone had written about what Hazel calls "School Yard Days."

Enjoy stories from Joe and Norman from that beautifully unscriptable day. Stay tuned for two more to follow, by Hazel and Frances:

Joe Garrison
Double Dare

When I was in elementary school, I could get away with a lot of stuff. I always got along with all of my teachers and they would let me do stuff and not say anything. This went all the way into college. But in elementary school, there were two things I did that still stick out to me. When I was nine years old, I was quite the daredevil.

On Tuesdays, we would all go to the library to exchange books. One Tuesday, I saw a little girl named Nancy and, out of the clear blue sky, without provocation, I kissed her! I must have dared myself to do it. The whole school was talking about it and so a few days later I was called into the principal's office and lectured about it and told that I shouldn't just go kissing girls!

Another thing I did was in our classrooms we had these huge bookcases and one of them was empty. One of my friends dared me to crawl into that empty bookcase and stay there for a whole class period. And I did! The air in there wasn't that bad. At the end of the class, my teacher, Mr. Grey, pulled me out and told me to never, ever do something like that again.

Looking back, I can't believe I did those things. But I pity kids now who are trapped in such ridged structures at school, and get in so much trouble for just being kids.

Norman Cain
My Favorite Teacher

When I was a student at the Martha Washington Elementary School in West Phila between Jan 1946 and Jan 1954, I had three teachers.

My first teacher was Ms. Washington, a strict but fair kindergarten teacher who was known for her hugs and swift licks across the posteriors of the naughty.
My second teacher was Ms. Crowell who unlike Ms. Washington did not give out hugs. She specialized in cracking knuckles with rulers, whacking posteriors with yardsticks and occasionally stinging slaps across the face. Any of the preceding horrors could be administered for not knowing the correct answer to a math question.

In spite of my being on of the best readers in her class for four years, she attempted on several occasions to have me admitted to a school for incapable and/or slow learners. I admit that the only class I excelled in was reading. I failed all of the others. That was because of my constant daydreaming.

One of my favorite dreams was arresting Ms. Crowell when I became an adult, because then I would be a sheriff…like in the Cowboy pictures.
My last elementary school teacher, and favorite teacher of all time was Mrs. Carter. I was assigned to Mrs. Carter’s Special Ed class when I reached the fifth grade.
The class was much smaller than the other fifth grade classes. In the two years that I was a student of Mrs. Carter, we had no more than 14 students…other fifth grade classes had at least 30 students.

Mrs. Carter’s illuminating and loving spirit filled the classroom and was a relief that calmed her students who had the potential to become nervous.
Maybe that is why our class was in an isolated corner of the building and why students from the other classes did not bother us.

But, like I said, the class respected Mrs. Carter; therefore, we read in a tranquil atmosphere. Mrs. Carter built our confidence by starting each class with a show and tell session. Each year she would take us to her husband’s dental office, which was located across the street from the school. With a huge grin he would show us his equipment and give us a lecture on dental health. We found Dr. Carter to be as amiable as Mrs. Carter and we loved him as much as we loved Mrs. Carter.
Mrs. Carter was dedicated, compassionate, enthusiastic, patient, motivating and among many other positive attributes, understanding.

She understood how badly I felt when I was dismissed from the glee club for not being able to sing. She arranged for me to be the school messenger for the day.
I felt proud to have the job as messenger, which outranked erasing and cleaning the blackboard, sweeping the floor and emptying the wastebasket.
Being a messenger was just as important as being on the Safety Patrol…even if the position was merely a one-time deal.

The day that I was a messenger I was, in my opinion, dressed to kill. My shoes sparkled. I had on a white shirt, blue pants and a red jacket.
I was so cool. I felt a keen sense of elation when I entered each classroom with a message.

When I graduated from Elementary School, I felt a double sense of elation. Surprisingly, I won the honor of being the lead student in Mrs. Carter’s class. My mother was happy for me but she could not help saying with a smile, “If Norman was the best student in the class God help the school.”

Well God…through Mrs. Carter did help the rest of the class, including myself, for when several of Mrs. Carter’s students were assigned to an all boys class of so-called “delinquents” and “slow-achievers” in the eighth grade of high school, four of us became class officers.

In other words, we held every available office: President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Incidentally I was class treasurer at some point.
We have all done relatively well. Mrs. Carter undoubtedly had a hand in our success. I am a life time student. I’ve had a multitude of teachers. Mrs. Carter is the best teacher that I have ever had. Thank God for Mrs. Carter.