The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Flashback Friday!

Heidi Ho, all you inquisitive little dears! First, I'd like to take a moment to welcome all my new readers from Benrik Land and thank my ex-husband for sending them here. Now, everyone gather 'round and I'll tell you another of my Friday stories. If everyone will sit Indian style (though the new pc term is pretzel-style for those who don't have younger kiddies) in a semi-circle, we'll get this show on the road. Nate, quit pulling Your Girl Friday's hair. Highlander, put the comic book away. Don't make me flick the lights on and off! That's better.

In honor of school being out around here, I thought I'd dust off an oldie from my own school days and share it. Another episode in crime and punishment, except this time, yours truly was in the hot seat.

Our regular fifth grade teacher had taken off the last six weeks (or so) of the school year for maternity leave. We were all very happy for her, and hadn't really considered what kind of substitute teacher we'd have.

Mr. P was probably in his early to mid thirties and had those kind of unassuming good looks that gave all of us pre-pubescent girls what my grandmother used to call "the vapors". Dark wavy hair and dark eyes, hidden behind black-framed glasses, he was tall and shoulder-y, and always wore those jackets with the elbow patches that scream "LITERARY HUNK". Anyway, we all thought he was yummy. Even if we were only eleven years old.

The first few weeks went well. He got to know us all and we all tried to impress him and, you know, get him to fall in love with us. Each of us certain he would become so infatuated that he would express his undying love on one knee in a private moment after class, promising to wait for us, as long as it took. Shocking that he never picked any of us. Leslie, Barb, Patty and I sat together in class and we all had it bad for Mr. P. When, by week five, he was still blind to the waves of pre-teen hormone coming off of us, we began to (because we were all very bright girls) put things together. There could be only one answer. Obviously, Mr. P was gay.

That had to be it. Why else wouldn't he be madly in love with one of us. Of course, we never really considered any of the ramifications we'd be dealing with if he did pick us, like how mad those of us who didn't get him would be...or certain LEGAL aspects of a thirty-something substitute and his 11 year old student. Wow, that Mary Kay LeTourneau thing takes on a whole different flavor for me thinking of that.

In any event, once we had determined, through scientific evaluation, that he was a homosexual, we began to resent it. No WONDER the boys were getting better grades on their science projects and getting all the attention (even if he was yelling at them). And so, one day, during class, we were goofing off a little and we began passing a note. THE note.

It started fairly innocently. Don't these things always? Barb sent a note to Leslie indicating that Mr. P was mean. Leslie added a little drawing. She was so artistic. I, being me (even then), added some kind of addage about him being gay, and passed it to Patty. Patty, thoroughly enjoying Leslie's talented rendering, laughed out loud. Well, technically, it more of a giggle. The damage, however, had been done.

Mr. P caught her in his gaze, and as he started towards her, Patty quickly passed the note back to me, in an effort to avoid getting caught with it. Mr. P, that mastermind, didn't miss a trick and had SEEN Patty's handoff. Without any hesitation, he instructed all four of us to stay after class and then he confiscated the note. THE NOTE. The note that said he...was gay.

We were all mortified. But, well, I had to be the smartass. This damnedable curse!! Out, out, damned smart-assedness!! I beseech thee! Ah, it never works. I've been doing it for more than thirty years.

The clock seemed to go so very slowly. It was excrutiating. Not one of us spoke. And no one made eye contact with Mr. P, or even each other. I mean, he'd seen the note. He KNEW. And we KNEW he knew. Would the day ever end? What was he going to do?

Finally, the bell rang and class was dismissed. At least those who had not called the teacher gay were dismissed. The rest of us were summoned to the front of the classroom.

Mr. P asked us if he had done something to any of us. Something that would make us so upset that we'd call him something that, in 1973 anyway, was pretty serious. We all hung our heads and mumbled and tried to hide behind each other. No...he hadn't done anything, we were just bad, wicked girls. E-vil children. Positively incorrigible. He never yelled at us. Worse, he told us he was disappointed in us. That he thought we were all very bright girls and that he liked us. LIKED US. He made each of us stay after school for an hour that day. Oh, and he called our parents to let them know why.

Wow. I even heard that groan from here. And my memory of it from the four of us girls is pretty clear, too.

My parents were definitely in the Spare The Rod Spoil The Child school of thought. So, I went home, that day, fully expecting to be directed to cut myself a switch from out back and then to get the accompanying whipping that went with it. But, no. Not that day. A new and special punishment would be mine.

I was to be "grounded". An interesting concept, to be sure. Specifically, I was to be "grounded" in my own house (porches counted), with no friends over. The period, you ask? The Entire Summer. That's right. They grounded me for the entire summer.

At first, I was relieved not to be getting my usual ration of corporal punishment. Not that I mean to imply I was getting it on a regular basis or anything, just that my dad could have been a marine and he'd whale the tar out of us when he felt we deserved it. Plus, I'd be reading and watching tv and I had toys I could play with, I was thinking it would be no big deal.

When school let out for the year, my exile began. My younger sister would be riding her bike up and down the street with our friends and I would sit on the porch and watch. The kids would be in our front yard, running through my mom's sprinkler, and I'd watch. Two houses up the street lived my friend Laurie...and she had a pool. And as the summer wore on, the July heat drove all the neighborhood kids to her backyard, where Laurie's mom would hand out homemade popsicles to all the kids after a long afternoon in the pool. And, yes, I'd sit on my back porch and watch them.

I found myself longing for a whipping. For the quick lesson it would bring. Instead, what I got was missed birthday parties and kickball games in the middle of the street, missed trips to the neighborhood grocery for candy, and missing out on playing barbie's on the porch with my friends. It was, without exception, the worst summer of my life. In fact, it still holds the title.

My parents would not budge either. They said the entire summer and they meant The Entire Summer. As July wore into August, my friends would wave to me on the porch as they headed elsewhere. At that point, they'd all come to accept my (not quite) invisibility. I never did.

Prisoners find themselves, given the amount of forced solitude they have, in deep contemplation. Contemplating their wrongs, among other things. At eleven, I just felt, profoundly, that my punishment far exceeded my crime. When my parents advised my sister and I, during the first part of August that we were moving from New York to Kentucky...before school started again...the horror really set in. I'd never have another summer here. I'd never spend another summer day playing with these friends. Friends I'd known most of my life.

There are no manuals handed out at the hospital when you have a child. No instructions on how to best parent them. My parents made some mistakes along the way. I'm certain I have, as well. When my summer of punishment started, they didn't realize that they were going to move us away by the end of it. Maybe if they had, they'd have opted for a different punishment to begin with. I don't know. They didn't let me out of it early, even afterwards, though. With one exception. The neighbors threw my family a Going Away party, which I was allowed to attend. Since it was a pool party, I finally got to swim with my friends and laugh and cry. We all told each other we'd write and we'd never forget each other, which, of course didn't happen.

Sometimes I remember the feeling of sitting on that back porch watching the world go by. Of the regrets and anger and sadness and loneliness that I felt so very long ago. More than not passing notes, or disrespecting teachers, I think the lesson I took away that summer was that I hoped I was better at making a punishment fit a crime when I had my children.

I never got caught passing notes again.

I never disrespected a teacher again. (at least not as a student.)

And I think I've done a good job with appropriate punishment for my own kids. (Of course, that's completely subjective, and as soon as I let them out of the basement, I'll ask them if they agree.)

Happy summer vacation, everyone! Make it memorable!



Blogger Your Girl Friday said...

Haha... very cute post Tammy.

I often wonder if the memories that stick in our mind about our teachers, the pain we inflicted upon them, and visa versa.. stick out in their memories too.

By the way... I cannot put into words how jealous I am that you all have just started glorious, scrumptous summer and downunder is in the process of plunging in to the depths of gloomy winter. *sniff*

6/02/2006 2:09 AM  
Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

This is great, Tammy, but oh, I'm having the worst flashbacks to my own elementary school. My sixth grade teacher (I claim to this day that I was smarter than this yutz) wore disco sideburns and Quiana shirts and skintight slacks. I'm positive he went out cruising on the weekends. He would ask questions during lessons and if we got them right he'd fling us pieces of candy like we were seals.

I begged my mother to let me skip this grade but she'd skipped herself as a child and had a bad experience always being the youngest in her class so she didn't want to do that to me.

I could have handled it, Mom! Really!!

6/02/2006 12:02 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

It's tough to know what to do as a parent. I've found the most important thing is to listen to my child and THINK before I punish her.

That way I don't say things like "You're grounded forever", and other things that I'll never really do or that will be more of a punishment for me.

I have to give your parents props for sticking to their punishment.

6/02/2006 3:04 PM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...


Thanks! I suppose I always think that teachers have so many students we make less of a long-lasting impression on them, than they make on us. I could be wrong.

As for your jealousy, I am enjoying the weather, to be sure, but I'm much more someone who enjoys the cold than the heat. Heh. Grass is always greener, huh?

Opus -

Thanks for the visual. The disco sideburns really did it.

Julia -

I agree. I know I've taken a wrong turn or two with my own. Not sure how one avoids that.

While I will still contend that three months is an excessive punishment for passing a note in class, I will agree with you that parents sticking to their guns with punishment isn't easy and is an admirable trait.

6/03/2006 9:37 AM  
Blogger AaA said...

"More than not passing notes, or disrespecting teachers, I think the lesson I took away that summer was that I hoped I was better at making a punishment fit a crime when I had my children. "

A laudable goal...

"I never got caught passing notes again.

I never disrespected a teacher again. (at least not as a student.) "

But you DID learn your lesson, eh?

MY dad (and my mom) were apparently also armed forces material, because Corporal Punishment was always standing ready. Say what you want about CP, I know that it works. I personally was never punished for the same infraction twice. Fastest route to a boy's brain is through the ass.

But don't ask me about girls, I don't know nothing about girls.

6/05/2006 2:01 PM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

I suppose I learned it, Nate.

I refuse to indicate that the fastest route to a girl's brain is through the ass. Somehow it just feels...I don't know...unseemly.

Don't get me wrong, my girls have been on the receiving end of some corporal punishment in their day, I just try to be more creative than that when circumstances permit. I also do something my parents never did, I give them the opportunity to explain their reasoning. More often than not, it's because they were being goofy kids and could have avoided the behavior, but there has been more than one case where they did something that would have bought me a whipping no questions asked, that they actually had some justification for getting themselves into. And it changed up the punishment I doled out. I think if you just set hard and fast rules and a punishment schedule that goes with it, it doesn't allow for the flexibility that life throws at you. I try to be consistent, but I also try to evaluate things on an individual basis. Not an easy task.

6/05/2006 2:30 PM  

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