Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Mrs Cittercup was my teacher for kindergarten and first grade. Isn't Mrs Cittercup a great name? I do not remember her much. I do remember that we learned to read, print, add and subtract in kindergarten. In first grade we learned cursive writing, multiplication and division, and we were reading out of the same reader that I read after we moved and I was in the third grade.
I would love to say that it was just because I was so intelligent that they had to teach me all those things at such a young age. The thing is that every child in my grade learned the same things I did. And that was every child in town and from the farms around the town.
I really believe that most children learn if they are expected to learn. Those little minds are just waiting to be filled with knowledge.
Toward the end of the first grade we moved to another town. As it was before, there were three grades to a room... kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. The same teacher taught all three grades, including music and recess.
The teacher here was Miss Hayhurst. I remember that she drove a Pontiac. Is it not strange that I remember that?
Miss Hayhurst was a middle-aged woman. As far as I know she never married. She had no children. But she was so loving and caring. Not the mushy kind of stuff like hugging and kissing. It's just that every single one of her students knew they were special. You never saw so many teacher's pets.
Miss Hayhurst was always in our classroom before the school day started. She welcomed us to come in early and visit with her. After school she remained to grade papers and do whatever it was she did. We often went home to change to play clothes and have a snack then we would go back up to the school to hang out in our room. It was encouraged by Miss Hayhurst. We loved spending time with her.
In the early 1950's they were experimenting with Salk vaccine for polio. We were bussed to the nearest "big" town to join the children from all over the area to be vaccinated. The boys from our room rode the school bus with the other children. Miss Hayhurst did not want to ride the bus so the girls from my grade (all three of us) rode with her in her Pontiac. How exciting. We felt terribly adult.
Miss Hayhurst appreciated our differences. She got to know each one of us and took a genuine interest in our little personalities. She was the teacher who recognized that I could memorize fairly long poems and recite them. She also recognized that I am a real "ham" (my term not hers). I loved performing in front of audiences. Hence the recital of poems by me at the programs the school periodically held for parents.
She suggested to my mother that she expose me to the classics such as Shakespeare and other classical writers and poets as soon as I was old enough. She did that sort of thing for all the students. And I know that part of the reason I was open to those suggestions was to please Miss Hay
A very pretty little girl moved to town. She was in the same grade as one of my brothers. They also were in Miss Hayhurst's room. Anyway this little girl also had the prettiest clothes. She had cute little outfits with can-cans (crinoline petticoats heavily starched) that made her full skirts stand out so fully. And there were so many of them. Most of us had just a few dresses and to be honest they were rather shapeless and drab. Ugly plaids (which I still hate) were the norm for most of us.
Miss Hayhurst was looking for creative suggestions for a project for us all to work on. I came up with the bright idea of making a book about her clothes.
Each day we would spend a little time on our books. Each of us wrote our own. During art class we would draw and color her clothes of that day. Then in writing class we would write a description of the dress. We kept each page in order. When we had seen all of her pretty dresses we made book covers out of construction paper and crayons. Then pieces of yarn tied everything into a book. It was fun.
I have always been a very competitive person. I am a good winner because I do not lord it over someone else when I win. I also do not get angry if I do not win. If I have done my best then I am happy. Plus I can enjoy someone else's talent.
So I was that nasty kid in school who always had to be done first and have the best grade. If we had a test I attacked it with gusto. Then I would happily march to the teacher's desk to hand it in before anyone else was done. Learning comes easily to me so I almost always had the best grade possible.
Often when we arrived in the morning I would notice something different about Miss Hayhurst. Maybe she was combing her hair differently or she had on an especially attractive sweater. I would write a quick note to her before handing in a paper. When I would receive the graded paper back Miss Hayhurst would answer my note with a polite thank you.
Miss Hayhurst had a lovely singing voice. In the morning before we started classes we would say the pledge of allegiance and a prayer. We still prayed in school those days. And it was before the "under God" was added to the pledge of allegiance. Then we would sing a good morning song to Miss Hayhurst who would answer by singing the same song back to us.
Our classroom had everything that was available in those days. There were books to read. There were toys to play with. There was even a table similar to a pool table except that it was deep and filled with sand for us to play creatively. Besides our desks there were little tables placed strategically around the room to encourage us to break into smaller groups sometimes to learn to socialize.
We would have a snack of milk and perhaps cookies mid-morning. Then we would pull out the small rugs we had all brought to leave at school. Those are what we laid on for our rest period. My favorite place to put my rug was under the sand table.
After our rest we would have some sort of activity that allowed us to move about. Our favorite was when we could get out the little instruments and march around the room as we played our instruments and Miss Hayhurst played the piano. Some of the instruments were triangles, cymbals, blocks of wood hit with a stick, washboards, cowbells, kazoos, slide whistles, and tambourines.
However the ones we all raced for were the birds. When the birds were filled with water they made the best sound when we hummed into them. There were only three of them so you can imagine the rush.
Can you see what made Miss Hayhurst so special and loved? I have had many teachers but she is the only one I loved. And I was not alone. Every child should have a teacher like Miss Hayhurst to nurture things that parents might miss and to build the confidence that each child must have to be a complete person.