A Stern But Loving Teacher

by Anita

Summer break!!! Oh how much I enjoyed it. Next year I would be in the fifth grade and I'd be changing classes for math, science and English. I'd have a homeroom for the morning, changing classes during the day and back to homeroom for the afternoon. I was an "upper class person"! Summer was almost over, then came the letter informing me of my class schedule and who my homeroom teacher would be.

My heart fell to my feet. I got HER, the mean old lady, the one who never smiled and would actually use a paddle on girls! My fifth grade memories, already passing before my eyes.

She made us recite by memory the states and capitals, the US Presidents in order and worst of all every month she gave us a poem, at least 10 verses long, two weeks to memorize and recite with perfection, accenting the emotion of the author's words.

If we spoke out of turn, we got demerits, she would criticize us in front of our peers and she didn't have a class pet. She had an electric pencil sharpener allowing only 30 minutes of usage in the morning, no exceptions. She always gave homework on the weekends that involved reading the newspaper, scanning for current events happening somewhere in the world other than the tiny town in which we lived. Projects handed out for spring break, holiday
breaks, we had NO breaks. We had to elect class officers, pay dues, hold monthly meetings and by the end of the year vote on how to spend the money we'd saved.

As the end of the year approached we were having fun and our teacher had changed or was it we who changed? She challenged us to learn and we took the challenge, for that we were grateful.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had become our friend under the spreading chestnut tree, George Washington was not only the first President of the United States, but was the inventor of many things we use today, and our teacher, Mrs. Bailey actually cared about our future.

We voted to use the money on her, purchasing a beautiful jewelry box and a rhinestone pin to wear on that old gray wool coat she wore every winter. Mrs. Bailey cried tears when we gave it to her, and I realized at that moment she was my favorite teacher and I'd never have another one.

Years later I visited her class, it looked the same as I remembered when I graduated to sixth grade. Mrs. Bailey still wearing the rhinestone pin in the lapel of that old gray wool coat, the one we bought so many years ago.

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