Even in the beginning, in kindergarten, I could never adjust to school. And it only grew worse as I progressed through the grades in elementary school. It seemed unnatural then, and it still does to some degree now, to expect little kids bursting with energy to sit in one spot at a desk and not to move unless you were asked to. In my case, it was too much to expect.
I’d look at my classmates and it didn’t appear that they were having the same difficulty as I did being tethered to a desk. As they stared at the blackboard and listened to the teacher, I was off in my mind somewhere else. Although I was mostly inattentive, I was never disruptive.
Soon I was far behind the others, and as a result I was always placed with the kids who found learning a challenge. I would gaze out of the window, and like a pint sized Walter Mitty, I would create in my mind a world much more exciting than the mundane world of a stuffy class room. At recess time, or at the end of the school day, I would gallop home, past the saguaro cactus, the fresh prairie breezes caressing my face and whipping the mane of the horse that I rode.
As I became a teenager, it seemed that even graduating from high school might be the impossible dream. Never in my wildest moment could I ever have imagined that someday I would be a teacher in similar stuffy classrooms, and yet I spent thirty-four of my adult years as a teacher. The unlikely events that led me into the field of education are a part of my book, but in this blog I want to briefly tell what it was that hopefully made me a successful teacher once I determined that teaching would be my profession.
There were many memorable teachers whose classes I was fortunate enough to be enrolled. Certainly there were also ineffective teachers too, but there were many more effective teachers than there were bad or ineffective teachers. As you might expect, the effective teachers were the ones who helped shape my career. I imitated them when I had classes of my own. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. Ask anyone who ultimately became a teacher and I am certain that he or she will credit some long ago educator as the one who probably unknowingly influenced them to pursue education as a profession.
Now take all of those wonderful teachers, most of whom have gone to the great school house in the sky by now, God bless them. All of them collectively have not had the influence on my career as one single detested teacher that I had in the eighth grade, circa 1949-50. Miss O’Mara was pure and unadulterated evil and she disliked and distrusted kids. She found fault with girls who all their lives had always been teachers’ pets. These were fresh faced girls who always completed all of their school work and earned good grades. They came to school wearing pretty dresses each day with tiny triangular handkerchiefs pinned to the dresses, but even they could not escape the wrath of O’Mara, and they were often brought to tears. If she found fault with them, I was red meat for O’Mara.
Suffice to say that O’Mara made my life so miserable each and every day in her class room that I would begin vomiting on Sunday nights knowing that the first two periods each Monday would commence with me standing alongside my desk while O’Mara laced into me about the quality of my work, my haircuts or my physical appearance in general. She even got me a conduct card to be signed by each of my teachers after each class, and ultimately by one of my parents. Those cards were usually reserved for kids with disciplinary problems, one of which I certainly was not.
I know that my classmates felt bad because of the abuse that O’Mara heaped on me, but in doing so, I kept the spot light off them for the most part, and for that they were probably grateful, but the rest is grist for another short story.
I think that you might be starting to see the irony of how the evil and totally destructive and negative Miss O’Mara had the greatest positive influence on me, even more than any of the other wonderful teachers I knew. By the way, she would be turning in her grave if she knew that the likes of me had become a teacher. What wonderful revenge!
With O’Mara constantly in my mind, I vowed that I would never humiliate a student of mine, and make education so unbearable as to make them physically ill in anticipation of going to her class. So thank you Miss O’Mara. I can’t say that you didn’t leave many of us scarred in your infamy. I know that you did in my case, but you also made me better person, and better professionally.