Sunday, October 31, 2010

Miss Westen

Miss Westen was a hard teacher. She seemed to be about six feet tall but, looking back on those days I would guess her to be five feet four inches or so. I remember occasions where she would be at the black board, probably teaching us cursive or more math tables which we did every single day, but mostly she would walk about the room and hover over our desks, this giant
of a teacher, strict and no nonsense! I dreaded this "Summer Vacation" essay. I knew she would make us write it a million times, changing words, looking them up in a dictionery, finding different words in the thesarus, and always, as was her want, "be descriptive", make the sentences longer! Writing something for her would be a job and we could never just sit down and get it done. She would go on and on about adjectives and metaphors, the "little helpers" that bring language alive. These assignments always began simple enough. She would bring something from her home and we would have to describe it. What was simply "a box" would become "a box on a table" and she would encourage our ideas as she wrote them on the blackboard. "Green box"! would enevitably become "the flat squarish box with tattered green wrapping paper, a gift always recycled and missing its ribbons, waiting to be the last present opened on this snowy Christmas Eve." That is really the way she did it, always a subject and a verb, those damned adjectives and metaphors can always tell a story in themselves. Make the reader want to know more, eagerly turning the page, alive.
Even at ten years old I knew this was going to happen. How could a teacher as old as the hills
really be curious about my summer vacation? It was going to be about writing and rewriting and making a big deal of something that happened during the summer. We had already been taught about "the audience", blogging had another fifty years before it would appear and only personal journals could start a topic with "I". This is almost before television, that media which destroyed reading, entertaining us with the delusion that an entire story could be told in thirty minutes. Television got the format right. Always set up the scene first, developing the questions
of where and when and who and why and how? I don't think Miss Westen owned a television set
but I knew she would be looking for these questions and their answers in our essays, and I knew
she had a penchant for making the reader curious! Now, how was I going to do that? I didn't remember exactly what happened that summer, not in every little detail that she would want to hear...

4 comments:

Barbra Joan said...

Well Jerry you had your Miss Westen, but I had Sister Beatrice. She was the eighth grade nun..in my elementary school . Now from the moment you entered First grade (5 years old)? you were immediately aware of this amazon woman.. with long black flowing habit (dress) (habit, thats what it was called ) they also wore this little bonnet on their heads. She stared at you with the iciest cold blue eyes , sharp nose, skin the color or no color of snow... As you went to higher grades every September you would honestly wish that God had taken her home. lol! But there she was every September until finally the dreaded day came ...OH no!.. you are entering the 8th grade and she was still alive ..still staring with those cold blue eyes. I swear she could turn you into an icicle. I had more stomach aches in the 8th grade than in my whole life.. TO BE CONTINUED MY COMPUTER HAS JUST MYSTERIOUSLY GONE LIKE THIS I think Sister Beatrice has something to do with it.

stonepost said...

I think we are finally old enough that we can think back to these days and laugh! An Italian in and Irish school, you must have some stories to remember, Barbra!

Barbra Joan said...

That tiny spitfire of an Italian girl in the all Irish school.?. They were all light haired and blue eyes, and there I was... big black eyes, dark hair, full of spit and vinegar. oh yes, and Peanut Butter .. wouldn't eat anything but a peanut butter sandwich for lunch the whole 8 years. honest.
We had to wear these dopey uniforms and white socks .. (the nuns should have seen me after that! they would be doing Novenas) So everyone looked the same.. (except of course the little Italian girl with the big black eyes and dark curly hair) I once had a (fist fight) with a boy who made fun of another that was a little slow.back then we could say retarded? now its mentally challenged.. ok so I hated bullies, he was my size , but he was a BOY! I gave him a cut lip. After that no one bothered the little Italian girl but I sure had lots of friends. LOL!

Ruby said...

No Barbra...it's not 'mentally' here anymoe.... don't know what it is; maybe that's the new 'developmentally challenged'. Working for the government it changed daily...had to be on your toes!
My third grade teacher was my terror. We moved to the other side of town and a new school for me....whew....missed her by a move!
Well I did not. She moved also...and there she was staring down at me every day of my third grade.
I truly expected to expire that year!
The following year the best teacher of my life took charge and renewed my hope and desire for learning.