Ventura, Calif. — Every day in junior high school was a day of humor, ceaseless activity, and surprise. As a teacher I never knew what to expect, but I did know the day would never be dull!
I taught three periods of English and three of American history. In one English class some students brought a decorated cake to my desk. The icing was inscribed, "Your are favorite english teacher." That day apostrophes, spelling, and capitalization were over- looked in favor of appreciation and affection!
In history classes I found that careful wording of test questions was important. Invariably they would answer "the French and Indians" to the question: Who fought in the French and Indian War? In my efforts to bring out the concept of French and Indians vs. the British, I meticulously worded the test item: Name those who fought on one side in the French and Indian War. Next , name those who fought on the other side.m
This proved satisfactory except in one case. A boy brought to me his test paper. He noted that I had marked his answer as incomplete. I pointed out that he had only French and Indians as his answer. He then turned the paper over, and there in the middle of an otherwise blank sheet was the word British. He explained, "You said to put the answer on the other side!"m
When we were studying President Truman's administration, I drew a picture of President Truman on the board. Then I asked the class to act as advisers to Mr. Truman regarding a momentous decision he had to make. I suggested that I would act as moderator and call on those who indicated a preference to express their advice and recommendation to the President. Student after student spoke earnestly and thoughtfully to the drawing. As the period ended, one boy rose and said to the likeness on the board, "Thank you, sir."
Names are important in junior high. One boy asked to be called Frog. As this is an unusual appellation, he was asked to explain his preference for the name. He liked to be called Frog because "that is the smartest thing there is." He had discovered the intellectual superiority of the frog in the dictionary. Truly, the proof was there. After the word frog was the word GENUS.
Other names I have encountered in school were genuine ones given by the parents. There were Bois N. Berry, Violet Herring, and Void B. Null. Scott Guess almost got into trouble the first day of school. The teacher asked him to give his last name. He said, "Guess," and she told him she wasn't in the mood for games! Everyone liked to speak to Ena. It's always hilarious to say Hi to an Ena or a Gene.
Three boys insisted on nicknames. Thaddeus was called Tad, Jewell was called Jay, and Darryl was called Bugs. Carolyn Hoopingardner wrote Hoop only at the top of her papers, an action that saved ink and strength and time. There were two Judy Wollermanns in the same class, an unbelievable coincidence.
Miss Cotton taught sewing, Mr. Sweet taught music, and Mrs. Smart was the dean of girls. The deans of girls at the two other junior highs were Mrs. Divine and Miss Noble. Evidently this lofty position required a name of grandeur.
In writing classes, we did a unit on "surprise endings." We had studied Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" and Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger."
First, the students wrote new "Hollywood endings" to "The Lady or the Tiger." In one paper the bride behind the door was the princess, heavily veiled; in another the tiger had been de-clawed and defanged by an attendant who was loyal to the princess and her suitor.
Then we progressed to original stories with surprise endings. The following are some of the condensed versions.
There was a farm boy named Bobbie who hurried from school every day at 3 o'clock so that he could walk home with his arm around Emma's neck. Emma said little but gazed at him with her big brown eyes. Bobbie really loved his loyal pet cow.
Two girls decided to have a party that would outshine all the other parties of the season. They spent many days preparing the decorations, the refreshments , the entertainment. As they took one last look around the room a few minutes before the guests were to arrive, one spotted an item out of place -- a box on the mantel. In the bos were the invitations.
Fred's friends were trying to convince him that he would like flying. Fred, however, insisted that he would never attempt it. His friends continued to reassure him. Finally they added that he really had no choice in the matter. "When we worms turn into butterflies, that's the way it is!"
A cowboy had approached the bank stealthily. He glanced around and moved closer and closer. When it looked as if he had reached his objective, his mother called, "Jimmy, time to take off your cowboy suit, and please put your piggy bank away."
One of the other compositions involved stuffing a turkey with yeast -- and finding it had floated out of the oven and had adhered to the ceiling. Another one was about a babysitter who heard a mysterious plop-plop sound. It turned out to be walnuts dropping from a tree onto the roof.
Besides writing, there are many oral exchanges throughout the day. These are some of the sentences and phrases common to all junior high classes: That word isn't in this dictionary. What page? Somebody ripped off my -- oh, here it is! How do you spell it? What page? It's in my locker. Do it tomorrow? Tomorrow's Saturday! What page? Do we need our book today? What are we going to do tomorrow? Will you make him turn around! How come? May I borrow a pencil? What page?m
One rainy day the bell to conclude the lunch period was rung five minutes early to get the students into the dry classrooms. Danny protested that class should not start early. We were having a very interesting film, but he closed his eyes for five minutes and then opened them when the official starting time for the period was reached.
Junior high characteristics can affect faculty members, too. One teacher thanked another teacher for donating his whole library to the school; both books were appreciated. A tribute to the principal was given in verse: We know you always like things neat From border unto border, Is it true you eat your lunch In alphabetic order? Some people say you're solemn, But we don't think that's true, We still recall that day you smiled -- October, '52.m
This note went home to a parent: Your son is carlessm in spelling.
Welcome to the world of junior high school. The pace was frenetic, and the delights were as numerous as the crowds in the halls. Where else would a boy have written, "The yellow light in a traffic signal m eans: Hurry and you'll make it!"m