Don't let the difficulties of the present moments overshadow the reality of God's promises. God's promises still stand. And God's promises are stronger than our failures.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mrs. Watson

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.


Dandelion Quilts said...

My mom has been teaching 1st grade for 35 years. I guess you could call it a family thing now. I was fortunate to grow up in a small town, where she also taught. All of my teachers were her friends. My favorite was also a first grade teacher, Mrs. Pavka. I loved first grade (although all of my friends were in my mom's class). Mrs. Pavka retired a few years ago. She was also a kind teacher, who did wonderful acts of kindest for her students usually without anyone knowing she did things for them.

Adrienne said...

You and I graduated the same year! You are right about the way things were at school then. I don't remember wearing pants but I think we did wear 'pantsuits' toward the end. It was a new thing, for sure.

My favorite teacher in high school was Miss Gormley, my secretarial skills teacher. She was a little white-haired single lady. She was the picture of kindness and a proper lady. So like your description of Mrs. Watson. Miss Gormley wanted to prepare each of us for life after school. With the skills she taught me I held good jobs for many years.

Julie said...

A class of '66 grad here! First day of high school, first period class...Local Gov't. (a required class at the time.) Miss Matthews. Tiny little woman, white hair, primly dressed. She handed out a sheet with all the gov't official's names & offices from local to federal and said there would be a quiz at the end of the class. I learned more in her class than just gov't. She taught me to pay attention and take school seriously. I got an F on that quiz. My first & last. Thank you Miss Matthews, wherever you are. I'll never forget you!

And about those clothes hangers....Me too!!!

Raquel said...

How neat! I had a drama teacher, Mr. Gold in my senior year. He was the art teacher also. He had actually acted off Broadway in his younger days. Very strict and stern. But he was a gentleman and we were required to act as ladies and gentlemen in his class. Even with only 2 people in the class, myself and my duet-acting partner, he was very strict. He also did fun things with us, tho! We had to learn how to do the lighting for the stage, where the stage positions were, how to build a stage flat, everything! Came in very handy for helping out with the dinner theater! Much love, Raquel XO

Raquel said...

Oops, forgot to add, if you made an A in his class, you had earned it! My partner used to get so upset, because he thought since there were just the 2 of us, we should automatically get As. Ha! We respected him for that, tho!

Suzanne said...

I graduated in 1965. What a terrific post Marlene. I loved teachers like Mrs. Watson. Like you said, they instilled in us an appreciation for the possibilities in life. I really believe that the current "anything goes" attitude is detrimental. There is something to be said for grace, humility, know, all those old fashioned virtues.

Where did you go to school? Not Central in Hot Springs? They've turned that into some really cool condos I think.

- Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife.

Teresa said...

I remember when pant suits were allowed for the first time too - and it had to be a matching tunic type top that completely covered your back side. Its funny, but I remember that was about the time mini skirts got popular. Now you never heard a peep out of the male dominated business world about those mini skirts not being appropriate for office wear like the pant suits were.

Anonymous said...

Class of '65...also LOVED school, so much in fact that I couldn't hardly wait until the new year began...could hardly sleep the night before the First Day...
I went to a Catholic school and was taught by nuns with the old style habits of long black dresses and veils...until I entered public high school. I have so many wonderful memories of those days!

Tracy P. said...

Gracious, Marlene, you've been busy and I don't have time to catch up. YET. But I wanted you to know that I would totally mail you a Tom Thumb donut, EXCEPT that they would be a complete waste of calories once they've been allowed to cool. You send me a warmer, I'll send you the donuts. Why don't you just hop a plane and come to the fair with me instead. We would have a blast! :-)

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I love that...from bell to bell, no wasted time. That's how I feel about the classroom, even when I was a teacher of elementary school, and even now as a leader of Bible study and Sunday school. I had so many wonderful teachers over the years...Mrs. Welch in 9th grade. That was such a hard year for me, yet she loved having me in her biology class...I could tell. She knew I was smart and saw past the humor and my awkward attempts at puberty. To this day, whenever I go back to KY, I catch up with her.

Now, there were some real "nuts" too, but I suppose you'll save that for another post.


Rebecca Ramsey said...

What a great post!
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Smisson, my creative writing teacher. When I found out that Random House was going to publish my book last year, I got back in touch with her to let her know. She wrote me the sweetest note! And her handwriting was still the same! Just a little shakier! She even wrote Bravissimo, which is what she used to write on my papers if I had done an especially good job! It was one of the best moments of my whole publishing adventure!

Eve said...

I had three teachers like that. They were all three sisters and all three teachers. They taugh me that everyone is unique and has great potential. We just have to find what talents we already possess. Everyone has a gift in something.

Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi) said...

I had teachers who exemplified real femininity- graciousness, modest behavior and dress...and like you, I didn't want to let them down. Actions speak louder than words, right?

Southern Lady said...

Marlene, just a note to let you know I have an award for you at "Southern Lagniappe."

I appreciate your sweet notes and encouragement and enjoy your stories so much, and just wanted to let you know.



jamie in rose cottage said...

Beautiful! What a wonderful influence that teacher was in your life!

nikkicrumpet said...

I had some really amazing teachers who touched my life...but the one that stays with me was my son's first grade teacher Mrs. Anderson. She had to go in for some emergency surgery so she didn't have a chance to let her students know she would be gone. She was so concerned that they would be worried about where she was and didn't want them to be scared. So as soon as she came out of surgery and was able to sit up...she personally called and spoke to all 31 of her students. She spoke to the parents first to let them know what happened, and then reassured every one of her students that she was fine and would only be away for a few weeks. I thought that was such a considerate and loving thing to do. I felt blessed that his wonderful lady was able to teach all three of my kids. And they love her as much as I do.

Calamity Jane's Cottage, Bonnie said...

Hi Marlene, Class of 73' and I have several teachers that just left me with inspirations to do my best. One teacher that comes to mind is the one everyone said, "You have Mrs. May's, ulk!" I thought she was the best. She would read to us Tom Sawyer, a little everyday and to this day I can still remember her voice. Where I live now is about 35 miles from where I graduated and one day in my shop a lady walks in. She sounded just like Mrs. Mays. I told her she reminded me so much with her voice and she said she had a sister that taught and sure enough it was her. Small world.
Have a great weekend,

Rue said...

Good morning Marlene :)

That was a great story.

My favorite teacher was Mrs. McMullen. I had her in the 2nd grade. She was such a sweet woman that I would go to her everytime I had issues with my school work even after I wasn't in her class. I was ADD before they knew what it was and she had a lot of patience for me and my antics. I know she's prbably gone now, but I will always remember her being a great teacher as well as an incredible person :)


Molly said...

My most memorable teacher was Sr. Margaret L. We called her "The Mag," though not to her face of course! She terrified me, for the reasons you mentioned, but also pushed me to exel, by her expectation that I could do anything if I worked hard. Teachers are so important in a child's life.