I was my Second Grade Teacher's Worst Day
This is a Sensible
way to introduce this personal narrative and tell you a bit about the time and event that I grew to hate. I had a rough second grade as well as the teacher. This female teacher was old, friend. She should have been retired years before I got into her room. She never smiled, laughed, or had anything nice to say to me.
She was all business--but as all of you know, too much business tends to ruin what business we do have.
Normally, when I write a hub or narrative
that I like, I have second thoughts, and many times, third thoughts. You ever get like that? I did last night and when I do encounter second thoughts, that is just a breath away from being second guessing and that sounds a lot like me in the general sense. Not many times I will write a Rough Draft of a commentary that I do not just stop, Delete, and start again. I have a lot of trouble finishing a project, but you know that better than me.
In the second grade, my elderly school teacher, this Mrs. Ruth Lochridge, was very short tempered and would snap at unruly students (like me) in a flash. There was this one afternoon that I become occupied with something that I had to do at home, and before I knew it, I was walking toward the classroom door and I heard that oh, so familiar growl: “Kenn—UUUU---th?! Where you goin’?” It was Lochridge. I could tell by the way she slurred my name and never emphasized the “g” in going. But did I point these grammatical errors out to her? I wanted to, but kept my mouth zipped. Those mysterious echo effects will always be a mystery to me.
“I was, uhhhh, errr, going to the library to check out a book on what I am working on at home,” I said.
“Kenn—UUUUU—th, just sit back Down!!!” she growled. And then bellowed. Was this demented old woman a wolf or lap dog? That was how I knew that she was angry by the tone of her growls or barks.
Allow me to share this Child Education Moment: at age 7, I was struggling, finding that life was a skinned knee, but in “that” moment, that chosen moment in my Second Grade Year . . .your teacher, if she were anything like Ruth Lochridge, and scolded you for something that was not really worth the breath to waste on the error, but the scolding sounded like a burly, hung-over construction worker, “Angus,” pouring cement in the August sun—sweating beer from the night before and his filthy, skinned work boot put his right boot as high as humanly possible and let my little butt have it—dead-on! Score, “Angus!” That kicking is exactly it felt for Mrs. Lochridge to scold me in "that" angry, demented voice.
I did not return one word. But instead, hung my head and slowly walked back to my desk—I felt the anger waves similar to those early Ray Guns in the late 1940s, run through my head. This old woman had it in for me. I knew that when I went in her room in the first horrible day of Second Grade, August 1962. As I sat down, I glanced at Lochridge and seen “that” hatred in her face watching me if I were a rabbit scampering away from her, the Hungry Red Tailed Hawk.
I can even recite (from memory), her old and worn-thin speech to us about important it was for us to “lis-ttt—UUUUn,” as she drew out that word while looking directly at me. I felt singled-out. But I just smiled. Then it seemed that she wasn’t through embarrassing me in front of my classmates, and let me have it again . . .”all of . . .Y—EEEE—w, (doze, cough), the . . .best . . .th—ANNNg, for . . .Y-EEEE-w, is (doze, snooze, cough), to LLLL—iiii—sss--tt--UUUU--n, an’ y—EWWWW, will be ooo—Kaay,” (doze, head falls forward).” I wondered just how long it would be before Mr. Spencer, our humble janitor, would crash open that awful creaking wooden door and see if she had passed away. The rest of the class was struggling and me, I felt like sneaking out her classroom door and start walking home.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that one kid-like error caused the Universe and the Planets to be completely misaligned—making each moment from me getting scolded by Ruth Lochridge in front of the class watching my every step as I crept to my desk and hearing the class whisper, “Dummy!,” “Idiot,” and a few profanities. Any other time, and with a sharp-minded teacher, those using curse words at me in 1962, age seven, would be handled two ways: the foul-mouthed students would be “boarded,” with the paddle that went with a string of elastic that was attached to a small rubber ball and kids were supposed to paddle the ball to score points. And two . . .the offending student(s) would be escorted by their teacher to the principal and further asinine punishment to be administered to them.
But those two possibilities never materialized. Instead, there was a Third Thing that I had not counted on. Mrs. Ruth, aka/Dragon Lady, had used the power of her black ink pen when grading my Report Card. Ahhh, the all powerful Report Card—sending shivers to children since the day that this Evil Device was invented. The Report Card: a Secret Terror causing innocent school children to have ulcers from teachers too old to teach, repeating lesson after lesson as if everything was as kind as a walk in the park on an early June morning.
A few days from “that” incident that I had completely forgotten about, the day came early and darkness was still evident as Report Card Day broke on a Tuesday, I remember, and I couldn’t have cared less. I did not need an evil old woman with alligator scales on the top of her hands to hand me this piece of sturdy cardboard-like thing the School Board dubbed a Report Card.
I also knew that I hated every fiber of school—including Ruth Lochridge. This time in my life was scary as a drunk white man who has just discovered he has lost his car keys in the middle of Harlem. Nothing is as scary as this, my friend. Take these three statements to teach you that if you have this urge to get wasted, leave Harlem right this minute. Do not let citizens of this place even know you exist.
The reason for my hatred was I started school at a beautiful place in the country, New Home. Equipped with standard equipment—tall, Pine trees that gently swayed with the breezes. Wild flowers of every genre dotted on each inch of that God-graced landscape. I am not sure that God himself did not live in those woods surrounding New Home School. I mean, He made it, and if He wanted to live in those woods, by all means, Father, help yourself!
The Hamilton City School System was rough for us redneck kids. I say redneck due to my dad being a sharecropper and was a doggone good one too. But for the State of Alabama to close all of the Farming Community Schools and throw us all into the City School Systems, was really a lot like passing legislation to force African-Americans to board those yellow school buses to be shipped to go to school with us Caucasian kids. The only bottom line difference was that the African-American students’ ancestors were beaten, chained, and used for plowshares. That sounds harsh, but Hal, it’s the truth.
I remember the look on dad’s face when he first looked happy at my grades Mrs. Lochridge recorded with her black ink pen. Then his face turned sad.
“what’s this here?” he said very short.
“what are you talking about?” I answered very polite.
“this ‘NO’ on this part of your Report Card,” he explained and I knew that my little butt was cooked.
I didn’t see the need to explain why Lochridge put that “NO” in the question: Does he exercise self control? I believe that in hubs past, I’ve published the reason for his anger showing at Lochridge putting a grade on me to cause me some grief.
And she was a Battle Axe of her word. One afternoon, now remember, dad and I had already went through that “NO” about controlling my self control and I thought the issue was settled. That was until we were told to study a certain chapter of our English book . . .the day was really going smoothly and there was a nice breeze flitting into the window of our classroom every now and then . . .the door opened and I instantly knew that my little butt was cooked again. I thought once was good enough.
“Can I help you, sir?” Mrs. Lochridge managed to wake up and greet my dad.
I felt like dropping and rolling as if our town was being hit with Atomic Bombs . .. .and I did read about that Atomic Scare in the 50s and knew well how to Drop and Roll.
“I’m Austin Avery, and that boy over there needs to come up here,” he said in his usual Dad-Being-Gruff-Voice.
I did not argue—I felt the sooner that I meet this charging rhino, the better.
“Look at this. See this “NO” on his Report Card?” dad asked Mrs. Lochridge and me.
“Well, dad said looking at me. “why did this woman give you a bad grade?”
“I, uhhh, errrr, (gulp), I, ha, ha, eerr, well . . .(more gulps . . ), dunno,”I stammered.
“This lady is supposed to teach you and you are to listen to her when she speaks and I had better not have to come back here . . .again,” he said and even smiled at me as he walked away leaving me left on a rotten limb and the entire class guffawing, laughing like a wild jackass braying for oats, and the boys digging each other in the ribcage.
I mean, this was my dad, the Last Word in our home—smiling at me for barking at me in front of these goobers in my class—some went on to almost due from whiskey; a few retired from nursing, teaching and the rest were like me, somewhere in a fog, not knowing which road to take.
“I wish every parent did what you just did, Mr. Avery. Thank you,” Lochridge said and did not bother scolding the rest of the hyenas in my grade. She just looked at me, again, with those Ray Gun eyes causing me to suffer more grief.
What was she going to do to me now, scold me just for kicks? I thought. And just sat there quietly and stared right back at her. No words came from her mouth or mine. I liked that. I was really standing up for myself and this way, she could not accuse me of NOT exercising my self-control.
Five minutes or so passed. Then a relief came in the form of Afternoon Recess. I just knew that this old hag was about to nail my little butt again and make me stay inside for more punishment. So I sat in my desk until every one of the other students left the room to romp and play in the waning days of summer.
“You not going out to play?” Lochridge mumbled while almost dozing off.
“Yes, ma’am. Just letting others go ahead of me,” I said just as nice and cushy as possible.
And there it was: that look of drowsiness in her face. There is really no cute or sweet ending to this commentary. I wish that there were, maybe one of you with Second Graders with a behavior such as mine might get a bit of wisdom from this piece or as I am going to do: go for a long nap.
___Dec. 18, 2017
© 2018 Kenneth Avery