Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday Memory

Did I ever tell you about my life as a 12 and 13 year old?

We moved to Griffin, Georgia, during the summer before I entered 8th grade. Daddy had just graduated from college in Kentucky, and we had come to Georgia so that he could attend Candler School of Theology at Emory University. The North Georgia Conference of the Methodist church assigned him to serve 3 small churches in the area as a student pastor. Sunnyside was north of Griffin, Midway was south, and I am not sure where Vaughn was - a very small church out in the country. Midway and Sunnyside each had “preaching” twice a month. They had Sunday School each week, but Daddy went to Midway on 2nd and 4th Sundays and to Sunnyside on 1st and 3rd Sundays. Vaughn only had “preaching” one Sunday afternoon a month I believe.

We moved our family of 8 into the three bedroom parsonage jointly owned by the two larger churches and located in Griffin (at least 15 miles from each of the churches.) The house was in a run-down section of town. It was a white frame house on a corner with a large front porch that ran all the way across the front of the house. A railroad track ran just a block behind the house.

The large living room was just inside the front door and extended two-thirds of the width of the house. This house also had a “family room” just off the kitchen where we put a large floor model black and while TV with an 11-inch screen. This was the first TV we owned. The master bedroom, a fancy term not coined until years after we lived in that house, was in the front (opening into the living room and into the family room.) There was a hallway down the center of the house from the back of the living room to the back door. Across the hall from the family room, my older sister and I shared a bedroom. In the back of the house, across the hall from the kitchen, the other children (3 of them at the time - 5 before we moved from that parsonage) shared a bedroom. The only bathroom was between the two children’s bedrooms - a long mid-night walk from the "master" bedroom! A storage shed stood in the small backyard along with clotheslines that ran the width of the property.

My eighth grade school year was a very unpleasant one for this shy student. Just getting TO school was a new and uncomfortable experience - I had never ridden a school bus before. In previous years I had always had siblings who attended the same school; but this year my older sister was a freshman at the county high school, and my younger siblings were preschoolers and elementary school students. The junior high school was large, and I was an unknown new student with little social confidence.

My most vivid memory of that school year is of my social studies class (called "Geography" at the time.) The young, effeminate male teacher of the class had no control at all of the rowdy class. He was probably a first year teacher; and I feel sure he found another career after surviving that year. I guess he survived it, anyway. I don't remember that he didn't. I know I barely did! I dreaded going to that class each day because chaos reigned supreme during that class period.

A large group of trouble-causing students constantly ridiculed the teacher and worked fulltime at irritating and flustering him. Some students threw chalkboard erasers at him when he turned to write on the board. Trying to catch the throwers, he would attempt to write on the board and watch the class at the same time. This resulted in a jerky revolving motion that appeared very uncoordinated. The disruptive students would mimic this movement and signal each other when to throw erasers, pencils, paperwads, or whatever was at hand. Since he could not concentrate on what he was writing, he frequently made grammatical and structural mistakes in what he wrote on the board. Students were merciless in drawing attention to these and created constant distractions on this front too. This poor teacher frequently (several times each class period) became very upset and yelled ineffectually – to the students’ amusement. This chaos was agony for me as well as the teacher and probably for other students who actually wanted to have class.

This same teacher really embarrassed me the first week of the year. I came into class that day chewing gum (an extremely unusual situation for me and a big disciplinary concern in those days.) I am sure this poor first-year teacher thought that "nipping in the bud" an inappropriate behavior would establish his authority, so he made a comment to the effect that maybe Kentucky hillbillies chewed gum in school, but no one in his class was going to do that. Then he ordered me to come to the trashcan and spit it out, which I did immediately with an apology, of course. I was mortally embarrassed. Poor guy! He had no way of knowing during that first week of school what was in store for him. Gum-chewing by the quietest kid in class was not even going to be a blip on the radar screen of his problems!

1 comment:

Carol said...

I am just now reading this! (1-7-10) I'm looking for brief memories to add to the family cookbook. So I'm going through family blogs. I love this story. Isn't it amazing how little incidences like your gum-chewing expereince stick in our memories.