Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The "Good Old Days!"

A few years back -from 2003 until about 2006 -there was a little operation going on in the area where I live.

A lady -who eventually became a good friend of mine -had started up a small monthly newsletter publication, "The West Branch Review" and I wrote several articles that were published in this newsletter.

I have shared a couple articles that I wrote and which were published in it before but tonight, decided since it's February, and cold, very cold, with a bit of snow on the ground -again (or still) that I'd pull this piece out and publish it here for you to read.

This is about the way the lady who taught all fourth graders as well as a segment of the fifth grade class here in town for many, many years.

Kitty Strickland -or "Missy Kitty" or "KittyKat" as she was often referred to (behind her back, of course) by her students was one heck of a teacher!

She was strict! That much was true, for sure. Law and Order reigned supreme in her classroom.

Although I remember distinctly that when I had her as a teacher, I didn't really "like" her -as I had Mrs. Wasseen and Miss Ivy Johnson -my 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade teachers. And Miss Bea Johnson, who I had for 5th and 6th grade was the elementary teacher I absolutely loved! But Miss Kitty -well at the ripe old age of 9, she was just too stern, too demanding, for my taste buds at that time.

By the time I hit high school and after finishing school, especially after having had children of my own enrolled in the school system here, I had completely changed my mind about this teacher as I realized she was one of the best instructors I ever had and she only wanted to pull out from me -and my classmates -the very best we could do.

So anyway -without further adieu -here's my story about her and one of her most notorious teaching methods!

Jennifer Hill Ertmer
Published in the February 2004 issue of The West Branch Review

What comes to your mind when you think of the month of February? Groundhog’s Day, sending Valentines, sales in honor of our first President - good old George Washington?

Or, if you are like me, maybe freezing pops into your head!

Actually, I think of freezing and of my fourth-grade teacher simultaneously when I think of February.

That teacher, Miss Kitty Strickland, or "Kitty-cat" as she was often called behind her back by many of her students, was known for her strict teaching methods and also, something else for which she became equally notorious throughout the little village of Grassflat.

Back when I went to school, girls were not permitted to wear jeans to school unless they were worn under your skirt or dress to keep your legs warm on that long walk up Grassflat Hill or the "Mail Hill" as another route to school was called. Boys, on the other hand, had jeans as their primary source of clothing. Odds are, in many families of my era, jeans may have been the only type of long pants the boys owned.

On really bad winter days - snow, sleet, freezing rain or just plain icy cold rain - when the boys arrived at school or on returning indoors from recess,if their pant legs were the least bit wet, Miss Strickland would send them off to the boys’ restroom, jackets in hand and they had to remove their wet jeans, put the jacket around their waist and return to the classroom. They then had to sit in class wearing the jacket as a "kilt-type" cover while their jeans were then draped over the big radiators to dry.

Can you imagine the type of uproar this action would create should a teacher today enforce a policy like that with the students?

Most likely the teacher would either be fired on the spot or severely reprimanded and the school district probably would come under fire, maybe even be sued by parents because the child was publicly embarrassed in the classroom.

However, this was common practice in Miss Strickland’s classroom and every parent in Grassflat knew too that she did this. Never did I hear of any parental complaints about her being too hard on the children in her classes. Although the boys may have blushed a good bit, grumped a little under their breath if they had to disrobe this way, even they ultimately took this all in good stride.

The logic behind her actions, of course, was to try to prevent the boys from getting sick – catching a cold, the flu or possibly even pneumonia from sitting in class in cold wet clothing. All the parents knew and understood this was the driving force behind her actions and that it was done out of care, concern and above all, love of her students.

Almost makes you long for those good old days now, doesn’t it?


Logophile said...


I attended a very small private school and it was staffed primarily by parents. Even into the late '80s there were all manner of things happening that would NEVER have flown in public school (students with their noses in corners, laps assigned for bad attitudes in classes, sending girls home for skirts above the knee, and the list goes on).

When genuine concern and love motivates a teacher, and they have the support of the parents, it is amazing how well they can teach kids, about school subjects AND life.

TechnoBabe said...

I don't long for these types of good ol' days. The harshness of teachers is a button that gets pushed in my old self. I was forever defending my brother from a cruel teacher.

Jocelyn said...

It IS amazing that she was able to do that. I long for the days when teachers could put individual stamps on their classrooms and treatment of kids. For my kids, I fear, in the long term, their teachers will meld into a blur.