I'll probably do several posts on my years in this farming community, located just a few miles outside of West Lafayette, where my husband and I were both attending Purdue University and doing graduate work towards our Master's degrees -- he in civil engineering (soil mechanics), and I in elementary education.
One of the main centers of this community was the school. Another was the grange, and the third was the church. I am going to speak in this post of the school.
I was teaching 1st grade, my all-time favorite. (And, yes, I was teaching there when Kennedy was assassinated, but that's another story.)
I think it was only my first year teaching in that school -- the first of many truly wonderful years!
We had just moved out to the 'country', and I wasn't at all familiar with the people there. I knew no names, no family histories, nothing!
A vast majority of the students were bused in from the surrounding areas.
There was one classroom per grade level. It was (as I recall) a stone edifice, square, two stories, plus a basement with boiler room and a 'keeper' who knew everyone and everything about the community and wasn't loath to relate any and all he knew (a real gossip, in the truest -- and perhaps, meanest -- sense of the term).
My classroom was right next to the principal's office on the first floor. In the small anteroom that connected my classroom to that of the second grade was a long row of shelves and hooks.
The shelves were for lunch boxes. The hooks, of which there were two each spot, were for outer garments and tennis shoes.
Indiana was, at that time, a basketball state. (Perhaps still is??) EVERY student was required to have tennis shoes in order to participate in gym class ... the gym floor was pristine. No one (including teachers) was allowed on that floor improperly attired, foot-wise.
O.K. There's your background. On to my story for today.
John Sheese arrived in my classroom, accompanied by his mother. He was crying, and was obviously scared. He was very tall! (I found out later that he was eight years old.)
I welcomed both him and his mother as warmly as I could.
It didn't take me long to discover that he was very bright! I didn't initially understand how or why it might have taken the mother so long to enroll him in the first grade.
(Eventually, I heard from the boiler room keeper, as well as many others, that John's mother had previously made several attempts to get him to school, ALL of which had ultimately resulted in his mother's simply taking him home again.)
O.K. I had John in my class. I realized, almost immediately, that he was going to be at the very top of my class, academically. I was delighted!
Problems first began in the anteroom. (Who would have thunk it?)
I didn't even realize there was a problem until the gym teacher brought it to my attention that John wore 'slip on' tennis shoes, only ... no laces. At first I just thought to myself, but then said aloud to him, "What of it? What's the problem??"
"Well", said he, "the problem is that of liability."
I had called Mrs. Sheese previously on this matter, because John had been leaving his 'slip on' tennies on the shelf designated for lunch boxes, only. I knew that was a problem, and had to notify her of it. She had 'fixed' everything by sewing loops at the heels of the tennies so they could be properly placed on a hook.
So, what could possibly have been the problem?
Well, the gym teacher had unequivocably stated to me that ALL student's tennis shoes had to be "tied". Well, it's impossible to tie one's shoes that have no laces, right? Right.
I tried to explain the problem to Mrs. Sheese.
We had a kind of stare down/silence situation until it FInally occured to me that John just didn't know how to tie his shoes. That was it, pure and simple!!
(Eight years old, bright, but doesn't know how to tie his shoes?? Impossible!!!) Yet there it was, the truth does outeth.
Meanwhile, back at my Montmorenci first grade teaching ranch, I had only two "breaks" (maximum) during any one teaching day.
Consisting of 15-20 minutes each, they were 1) art, and 2)physical education.
The art teacher was of the "old school" ... color within the lines, using only certain colored crayons -- you know, the leaves had to be green, the trunks of the trees brown, etc. (Quite dissimilar to Gwen Giskin, an art teacher I had met while teaching at Battleground. Haven't written about her yet. May or may not later, depending on my mood. Not today!)
Well, this one day the art teacher came into my classroom with sheets of paper showing unlaced shoes/boots. The assignment was twofold: 1) to "color within the lines" and 2) to lace the shoes/boots (she had brought hole-punchers) with laces that were to be distributed amongst the students.
Just as I was about to 'escape' to the boiler room for a short break, she asked me if I could stay and help. (Ye Gods!!)
At that very moment, I kid you not, Mrs. Sheese walked in to observe.
I said, "No, I can't, but I know that Mrs. Sheese would be glad to assist you!"
I RAN, and -- I guess -- haven't stopped laughing to this day.
That is the one and only time in my life that I have been presented with such a wonderful opportunity to "getcha" and have the presence of mind to take advantage of it.