Tiger Time

If you remember anything about primary school (and I do, if little) you hopefully have a few memories of one or more of the fantastic sort of teachers who were the virtual equivalent of extra aunties and uncles and grandparents, but neatly spun into the form of educators whose wise teaching made you learn things without even knowing you’d worked at it, and want to learn things you hadn’t even known you wanted to know just because they were such fine pedagogues that they made it seem possible, if not easy.

You undoubtedly also have a memory or two of teachers who were quite the opposite. My personal least-fave was the third grade teacher who had no compunction about excoriating and humiliating a student in front of the rest of the class regardless of the infraction or any of their previous achievements or behavior, even cracking a yardstick onto desktops to make a point when she was het up, regardless of whether there might be some small knuckles in the way of the stick. At the very same time, she apparently thought it perfectly logical and beneficial to ‘level the playing field‘ and make all students feel they could accomplish something in her class, lest the PTA or school board think her not supportive and informative enough, and this she would do by sitting and doing the weakest students’ homework for them.

I knew nothing of this until one time when I was the unlucky receptacle for her ire, having failed a penmanship test in the first weeks of school because that school required students to learn cursive writing in the end of the second grade and the one in another state where I had spent my second grade did not. Had she asked us all to sing a song in Spanish, I might have been the star of the class, because my second grade teacher Mrs. Mosqueta let us learn a little elementary Spanish from one Señor Ybarra, who taught by the ultra-newfangled medium of televised classes, and I don’t think my new classmates in Illinois had yet had access to such magicks themselves. But there I was, little miss Goody Two-Shoes, who had never gotten anything but perfect scores because I was too prim and much too afraid to not do my homework to the nth degree—if I had any actual training or homework to prepare in the event—flunking my attempt to make Pretend Cursive when that mean lady in her sausage-casing dress didn’t even ask whether I’d ever been trained to write that way. If you think I still sound remarkably bitter about such a small thing from so long ago, well, I probably ought to let it go but I tend to enjoy my little revenge fantasies more than is entirely good for me.Digital illustrations + text: Tiger TimeThis is all in jest, of course. I wouldn’t be so cruel as to want to give any poor innocent tigers indigestion.


16 thoughts on “Tiger Time

  1. Thankfully I was mostly unscathed by teachers unlike my poor mom who was taught by nuns – they were vicious!
    Have a beautiful day my dear Kath, sending you much love and warm hugs from across the oceans.
    🙂 Mandy xoxoxo

    • I’m always struck (no pun intended) by how many people’s tales of cruel teachers (both in and out of schools) come from various church backgrounds. Maybe I’m especially attuned to that as a preacher’s kid and bishop’s daughter who grew up seeing some of the best people around—including my parents, thankfully—and some of the worst behavior imaginable. Nothing like the context of best-intentions to make the most awful results really stick out, eh! Glad you had a better experience!!!
      Love and hugs!

  2. I was most fortunate to have wonderful experiences in Primary School (UK) I am still close friends with several people who I started school with at the age of 5 – and we agree that one teacher, Mrs. Whitefield was responsible for inspiring us to be all that we could be…..whenever I get together with my friends, we always talk about Mrs. Whitefield.

    I do remember one teacher who would always make me stand outside the classroom because I talked too much….and one day he forgot that I was there, and like you, being Miss goody two shoes….I just waited. Well the poor man found me there way after school had finished, and then had to walk me home.

    Have a lovely day. Janet. xxx

    • I’m delighted that your teacher got his own lesson! And very glad that you had some good ones, especially Mrs. Whitefield. I had some superb ones of her caliber, too, and perhaps that’s all the more reason my third grade teacher stood out so prominently as a not-so-fine one. I hope she, too, learned to be a better person and teacher. 🙂

  3. Oh, wow. I had a third-grade teacher with a yardstick. Mrs. Muller. She taught my mother and her nearest eldest brother (both of them admitted hellions) before me, which should give some idea of her vintage, and had very clear ideas about Order and Discipline. She would pace the rows during tests and bring her yardstick down with a CRACK on the chairback (and shoulder) of anyone slouching in their seat. Twenty-nine years later I am still incapable of slouching. Yet, somehow, I remain ungrateful. Hugs, Desi.

    • Hmmm. Your Mrs. Muller and my Mrs. Finley would, I think, be about the same vintage, and clearly shared a tyrannical temperament. Cousins, I’ll bet! And Mrs. F. and my Mrs. Mosqueta were a fine embodiment of a demonstration that Discipline doesn’t have to be *mean*—while Mrs. M. was also somewhat fearsome in her own strict way, it only went so far as a stern admonition, or a stoop to nab our pencils from behind while we were practicing penmanship, so as to enforce a lighter grip and remind us to attempt a more easeful form of writing. This latter practice was, of course, wholly opposite in its effect to what she was trying to accomplish, and I have to this day both illegible cursive writing (unless I’m practicing it as calligraphy) bad enough that I have to print to read my own notes, and a substantial callus on my writing hand where I grip the pen/cil as though clinging to a root while hanging from a cliff. But I respected her and didn’t dislike her intensely as I did Mrs. Effing F.

      All of that being said, the teachers I respected the most were both able to maintain plenty of classroom discipline and gentle, even loving, with their students. From Mrs. Clavey (my kindergarten teacher) right on through graduate school, these are the ones who have remained in my ear as learning guides and in my heart as life coaches. What a potent gift! I absolutely know that you are one of these rare birds yourself, carefully balancing the practical and the theoretical, the high and the homely, as you help young’uns navigate the world. I know you’ll have many people grow up and look back with admiration and astonishment at what you have given them, even if you never get to hear it from them yourself.

      Hugs back!

    • Ah, yes, the infamous chalk missile! My worst teachers were also too uncoordinated to attempt that one, thankfully. I hope you kept your chalk collection for later bloodstain mitigation in your surgical practice…or a nice little crime-scene chalk outline after you “accidentally” bumped off your cranky former teacher. Wink-wink!!! 😀

  4. Tiger Time is a lovely mental doodling that can’t help but cause a tiny smile to creep upon our lips. We’ve all known a few folks that could use a bit of Tiger Time. My own history with Educational Beings had some ups and downs, with perhaps the highlight being a college professor that wrote in bright red bold letters across the entirety of the page “You should be TEACHING a class on writing, not taking a class on writing”. That comment was perhaps the first time I actually began believing that maybe, just maybe, what I’d been hearing all along might possibly have some merit.

    Of course, I also had my own fair share of the other side of the coin. A Spanish teacher, in middle school, that had roving hands, and an ugly snarl, who found one excuse after another to keep young girls after class. Appropriate that “no” in English is exactly the same in Spanish. No, means no, in any language. Nyet. Nien. Nee. Non. No.

    Thankfully, it seems I had way more interactions with teachers that were interested in watering the seed of curiosity that lived within me. I adored the act of learning. It was a gift that had no limits. Yes, I was that dweeby little girl with her nose buried in a book. The thrill of holding an encyclopedia in my hands was well-worth the hours spent trying to absorb all the tidbits of knowledge tucked therein. One set of encyclopedias was enough to feed me for weeks and months at a time. It seemed I was always hungry, and then, oh my, I discovered libraries. I was in heaven.

    • Well, your professor ended up being right after all, since every time you post it’s not only a story worth the reading, it’s a tutorial on writing well. Being the nose-buried dweeb has served you well! You should see the lovely library where we’re staying this week, by the way. Heaven, indeed! 🙂

    • Yes, I’ve known plenty of horror stories from others about how rotten pedagogy or just plain rotten people as their teachers took away their love of learning, their interest in a topic (or ten), even their joie de vivre. What a crime. Thank goodness for the great ones! They, too, can shape lives, fortunately. 🙂

  5. This made me smile Kathryn. I had a reasonably ok time at primary school except ror getting my leg slapped hard for giggling in a sewing lesson! I can still feel it and see the red mark! Didnt stop me giggling though! 😄 xx

    • I’m just guessing here, but it seems unlikely that a hard slap will make a child either a better seamstress or a quieter student. Ugh! I’m glad you came out of it okay. 🙂

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