QotD: Apple For The Teacher

Who was your best (or worst) elementary school teacher?
Submitted by Minnow

I don't remember any "best" elementary teacher.
But I do remember the worst: Mrs. Lednum, sixth grade.
To do her a tiny, very tiny, bit of justice. I suspect I was an exasperating student.
I could do the work, but I just didn't.
But I still understood it.
(I guess, makes a teacher feel useless, maybe?)
I didn't like school, and I didn't want to be there at all.
The previous year I had missed more days of school than I turned up for — I had discovered that I could leave for school in the morning and just go play in the woods, or sneak back into the basement and read.
At the end of the year, the school had wanted to keep me back — some silly notion of required attendance — and that brought my parents into it.
They pointed out to the school that even if I hadn't come much, I was still off the top of the charts on the achievement tests, so keeping me in fifth grade seemed pretty pointless.
So I was promoted, and my parents promised to make something of an effort to see that I attended.
But it didn't make for a good relationship with the school.

Neither did the lice incident.
In 1961 lice did NOT happen in pristine suburban schools.
I didn't even know what they were, other than itchy.
I finally caught some off my scalp and took them to my father, the doctor.
It made for a lively couple of days.
The school announced that I was suspended, but was going to do nothing else.
So my parents called in the health department.
Who sent in a nurse.
Who sent home about two-thirds of the students and staff.
None of whom had realized they had bugs in their hair.
Afterwards, the school seemed to continue to believe that I had somehow caused the whole situation, presumably spontaneously generating them myself out of pure spite.
Mrs. Lednum was not the typical teacher for those prime baby-boom years.
Mostly our teachers were older women, recruited back to the classroom to deal with the flood of children.
They may have been battle-axes, but they were mostly impartial battle-axes.
Mrs. Lednum was a bright and shiny newlywed, and she was "friends" with the kids.
Mostly, though, with the bright and shiny little proto-Barbies she identified with.
The ones who mostly seemed to think I was icky.
Ad she pretty clearly agreed.
I suspect that it didn't help that I wore hand-me-downs from my older sisters — some of which they had received in turn from our cousin's children, which would mean they had been bought in the mid to late thirties.
My parents had many good qualities.
I have friends from high school who think they were wonderful.
But sometimes I think they needed a swift kick.

The two specific things I remember are:
Usually I sat in the back (between the  Jew and the black kid, one of each, thank you. We were very progressive).
I could read my own stuff about half the time, if I was careful.
One day I forgot and left the book I was reading in my desk.
When we got back to the room (lunch? phys ed? I don't remember) she had my book.
She showed it to the whole class, explaining that it was bad that I was reading it.
It was The Nun's Story — basically my parents had tons of books, and we could all read anything.
I think it was just a best-seller, regular book.
Not anything perverted or strange.
I remember it as fascinating.
There's all this awful nursing stuff, and she's with the Resistence, and she talks about living a spiritual life, and god and stuff.
I never got to the very end, though, because she confiscated it.
At school, kids are only supposed to read kid's books.

The other thing is really a story about me and math.
Mrs. Lednum placed me into general math in 7th grade. instead of algebra one, with the smart kids.
In fact, it's worse than it sounds.
The middle school had eight sections, which were unapologetically tracked.
They were numbered 1-8 by ability..
My only friend from elementary school was in 701 — she went to Harvard on a scholarship and is now a super-uber brilliant successful academic.
Mrs. Lednum placed me in 708.
It was *educational* though.
Over the Christmas break Linda and Timothy stole her mother's car and eloped to New York because she was pregnant and they thought they could get married.
They couldn't.
Linda got out of P.E. for the rest of the school year, I assume so we wouldn't see her all nekkid and pregnant in the shower.
Timothy tried to rob my father's office a few years later, but he was so high the nurse just talked him out of it.
Then he caught a cold in jail, and when he got bailed out he came by the office because he was sick.
And there was my new friend whose apartment I was explicitly not allowed to visit since it was her mother's place of business.
(It took about three times around before my mother actually up and said why not. I was not a big fan of Because I Say So.)
She ran off to an ashram, and is still living a spiritual life today. An utterly neat person.
And there was the kid who killed himself sniffing glue a couple years later.
The world is so full of a number of things….

Anyway, at the end of the second week of seventh grade the math teacher called me in for a conference.
To apologize.
He had tried to get me transferred into algebra, and presumably into another section, but the advanced math teacher wouldn't let a new student in since he'd already started teaching.
So my teacher said to just treat his class like a study hall since I didn't need it.
The next year I was in 802.
I couldn't be in 801, because they'd already had algebra.
The math lag kept me one step back in the math, which transfers to the general tracking, all the way through high school.
Thanks, Mrs. Lednum.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I don't know how you can remember all those details so clearly! You must be YEARS younger than me and your brain cells haven't started to turn to puddin's. 😉 My most notable elementary school teacher would have been Mr. Compton, in 6th grade. My very first male teacher EVER. But even as long winded as I usually am, I could not come up with such an elegant and descriptive post as this. I'm impressed!


  2. Well, as a high school friend announced recently, now we're all as old as dirt.It's not so much that my puddin'like brain retains any sharp edges, as that I can remember *this* stuff.But not who called last night, or when we scheduled the plumber to come.(That's why god invented date books.)


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