Education Corner 24

Last E C our beginning teacher Navarro Navarro was offered a 5th grade teaching at Mt. St. Mary’s school. He was offered the job on a Sunday and was to begin the next day on Monday morning. He had no teacher training so he is sitting at home that Sunday night wondering just what he would do. Last E C he worried about teaching English and did a lot of praying. This week we find him still sitting and worrying—trying to figure out just what this teaching was all about.
Navarro knew that his success that year would in part depend on the 4th grade teacher. He hoped and then began to pray that the 4th grade teacher had done a good job. He hoped that these 5th graders already knew the multiplication tables, and he prayed that they could all read and write. Navarro had no idea at what level he wished them to read and write at, 5th grade level he guessed but what was a 5th grade level? With all these uncertainties and with no firm answers young Navarro resorted to prayer. He was not a particularly religious man but what else was there to do? He was not pleased with the one he had crafted but he tried it anyway. “Oh dear Lord, I do not even know what to pray for so I will just say I need a miracle or better yet I will need a series of miracles.” The young man thought that while he could not be specific about the miracles, the Lord just might hear his sounds of desperation and grant pity upon him.

At about seven that Sunday evening Navarro sat down at his kitchen table and pulled out his newly purchased briefcase. Inside was a fresh yellow legal pad, a black pen and a red one. Then with black pen in hand Navarro made a giant T on his yellow pad. On the top of the left side he put a big + with his black pen. On the right side of the big T he made a minus sign and for that he used his red one. With closed eyes he began to think of his elementary school teachers and pictured them in his mind. After a few minutes he recalled his high school teachers and then even the college instructors he had only recently known. He was unsure if thinking about college professors made any sense for a beginning 5th grade teacher but he included them anyway. Underneath the large plus sign he wrote in black ink the names of all of the teachers he considered good. The young man was unsure what he meant by good but he started writing names anyway. He began with his first grade teacher, Mrs. Cassettari and he added four other elementary school teachers; his third grade teacher, the sixth grade teacher (his first male teacher), the seventh and the eighth grade teacher. He remembered with a little smile having been placed out in the hallway on several occasions in Mr. Anderson’s eighth grade class for misbehaving. But Navarro remembered trying to be the class clown, and Mr. Anderson had been right to punish him by removing him from class. So even though he had been punished and angry with Mr. Anderson at the time, Mr. Anderson was still a good teacher. Navarro then added four high school teachers and one college professor to his list but even with that the list totaled only nine teachers. He remembered quite a few teachers that were okay, but somehow they did not meet his yet undefined level of good.
He then shifted attention to the bad teachers. At first the young man thought this would be easy because the first name came immediately, Miss Maupin his 4th grade teacher. She was always paddling that poor girl Phyllis. He remembered Phyllis with her coke-bottle glasses and her stutter. Miss Maupin openly called her retarded in front of the class and told Phyllis that she belonged in a special school. After a good whacking, she often made Phyllis wear a sign that said Dunce. Navarro and his classmates quickly figured out that dunce meant retarded so most of the kids took to calling Phyllis-Dunce. Even half-blind Phyllis with her magnified eyeglasses often laughed and even referred to herself as the Dunce. Eric Fisher had said that his mother had told him that Phyllis was likely dropped on her head at birth. Eric’s mother told him that since this was the fault of a doctor or some nurse we should not make fun of Phyllis. And she had said that we should not call Phyllis “Dunce.” Mrs. Fisher said that Miss Maupin was wrong to be mistreating a retarded person. So Navarro and most of the 4th graders did not like the way Miss Maupin treated Phyllis. And Navarro never understood why Miss Maupin punished the poor girl for something that was not her fault. Miss Maupin sometimes spanked Phyllis for not doing her homework and Navarro was sure that most of the homework was impossible for poor Phyllis to complete. Certainly Navarro recalled the delight of the entire class when one Wednesday morning a permanent substitute took over for the rest of the spring semester. Miss Maupin had locked Phyllis in the classroom closet for not doing her homework and had forgotten to let her out. Luckily Phyllis was found that Tuesday evening by the school custodian as he made his nightly sweep of the classrooms. The permanent substitute never made Phyllis wear the Dunce sign and told the class not to call Phyllis “Dunce.” The young man then made his second prayer and this one was very specific—“Oh Lord, please do not have any students like poor Phyllis in tomorrow’s fifth grade...I just would not know what to do.”

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