I graduated from high school in 1964. A lifetime ago. Two lifetimes ago! A different world, for sure. During my high school tenure we were tentatively allowed to wear pantsuits to school. But only if they were a very nice matching set. No plain old slacks and shirts and good heavenly days no jeans. That was a giant leap for the administration who firmly believed we should only wear dresses or skirts but who were tired of the parents and students telling them to "get with the times."
In the 8th grade I had been selected to take a "new math" class. I don't know why they called it new math because it was essentially Algebra I but I remember how impressed with myself I was because this math came from THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO (and it was always said in capital letters) and it was a paperback book, not a hardcover book. That proved to everyone how new it was. Taking that class meant that I eventually ended up in Mrs. Watson's Algebra II/Trig class.
(Photos from Flickr)
I loved school from beginning to end. First grade Mrs. Hensley, second grade Mrs. Davis, third grade Miss Wilson, fourth grade Mrs. Seymour, fifth grade Mrs. Wall, sixth grade Mrs. Hermann, then off to junior high where oh my goodness how will I ever remember where to go when I had 7 different teachers in one day!
Of all the teachers in all the grades in all the classes Mrs. Watson was my favorite and the one I was most terrified of. She was not young though looking back I'm sure she wasn't as old as I thought then. She had white hair and I equated white hair with old (and yes, my hair is completely white now). But she was beautiful, truly beautiful. She always dressed like a lady, talked like a lady, acted like a lady. She moved with such grace that I wanted to watch every move so I could perhaps capture a bit of it for myself. She taught from bell to bell with no thought of doing otherwise. She wouldn't have dreamed of wasting time because we had much to learn and she took the job promising to work hard so that's what she did. A woman of her word. I can still see her face and smell her sweet scent - not a perfumy smell but a sweet old-fashioned bath powder scent. Smell is much too harsh a word for her.
I said I both loved her and was terrified of her. Why terrified? I never heard her say an unkind word or call a student down. She never raised her voice or sent a student to the office. But I thought she was so wonderful that I was scared of disappointing her. And that would have been devastating. She inspired both loyalty and a desire to succeed in me. She told me often that math has rules and that I could learn those rules and I could solve any problem with them. She made me believe in me and in what I could do. She gave me so much confidence in myself that I eventually went on to major in math in college. Oh, I didn't make all A's in my math classes. But I knew it wasn't about the A; it was about the learning. It was about what I was capable of. It was about being able to solve the problems by using the knowledge I had.
Mrs. Watson was a real teacher because she didn't just teach me the math. She taught me how high I could soar. That's what real teachers do. I'd love to hear about a real teacher who made a difference in your life.