Mrs. Tornquist (not her real name) held the heavy maple yard stick in her right hand pointing at the spelling words on the black board. The little boy and the little girl were her subjects and she was determined that they would learn their spelling words. The rest of the class was up two stories higher in the library searching the long shelves for that one special book they could take home for the week.
Tap, tap, tap, the long yard stick hit the black board a little harder with each tap. “Spell the word! - Spell the word!” each directive louder than the previous. She now had her full attention focused on the little boy. The harder she tapped and the louder her voice the less Grayquill was able to comply. Mrs. Tornquist’s frustration was effecting the placement of her tapping and there were at least three words the yard stick had come close to. Which one was he supposed to spell? He guessed About was the intended word, “A” he hesitated was it a d or a b? They both were so much alike. Which side of the line was the circle? He guessed “d - - o - - ….” Mrs. Tronquist turned in her frustration, with the yard stick high, she brought it down hard. The yard stick caught Grayquill in the throat and knocked him out of his chair onto the floor.
The little girl screamed and began crying. Grayquill gasped for air and curled up his legs close to his chest. He felt like his neck was caved in. He laid there hysterically sobbing for several minutes. Grayquill’s neck eventually recovered but his spirit was damaged more than his neck. Second grade ended having two more teachers that year. There was Mrs. Bush whose arm mesmerized Grayquill when the bottom flopped side to side as she wrote on the black board. He stared in awe of the swaying blubberish mass. He wanted to touch it see how far his finger would disappear into the soft pale tissue. But, of course he never did, even though only a second grader, he knew not to call attention to ones fat.
Grayquill has no memory of third, fourth or fifth grade. School work had not gotten any easier and he didn’t read very well. But then sixth grade came and Mrs. Iverson was his teacher. She was old. Her face had deep wrinkles that Grayquill thought were very interesting. She wore bright flowered dresses; her hair was bluish silver and a pair of her many colorful bright horn rimmed glasses always hung from the silver chain across her chest. She always smiled and Grayquill thought she must be an angel with wrinkles. Mrs. Iverson liked Grayquill and he knew it – that made all the difference. Mrs. Iverson was one of the significant people in Grayquill’s young life. Looking back she spoke hope into Grayquill. She always believed the best and he remembers her telling him he could do better – not in a shaming way but in a certainty way. One day she told him that a book in the bible was written just for him. The book had 31 chapters one chapter for each day of the month. She said it was written for teenagers which Grayquill was going to be just next year. And, he should read one chapter each day, and if a whole chapter was to much then he should try to read 10 verses. If he would do that she promised him it would help him with his reading. She said the book would also help him be wiser and help him make good choices in life. Grayquill believed her – why wouldn’t he? She had earned the right to speak like that to him. So, he did just that for the next 6 years and Mrs. Iverson was right it helped him. The book was Proverbs.
Everyone should have an Angel with Wrinkles at least once, don’t you think?
Loved the post Grayquill,
Mrs.Tornquist and her kind have ruined many a young mind. They should work on an assembly line in a factory, never around kids. Thank goodness for those angels with wrinkles. You were lucky to have met one.
I had too few memorable teachers, but there were three or four whose lessons stayed with me. The bad ones stayed with me, too.
Choco: For all I know this incident could have been the reason for Mrs. Tornquist leaving the school. I can remember hearing she had a nervous breakdown. But, no - I am pretty sure that kind of hitting was illegal even back then. Swats on the butt - totally legal and in my never to humble opinion should be brought back as a tool for school.
Arkansas Patti: You came back I am so happy!
Who knows maybe Mr. T was a good teacher at one time. It was for sure past time for her to take a break from teaching.
I was lucky? hmmm...fortunate for sure, maybe both.
Betty: Interesting - the extremes are what we remember, both good and bad.
Wow! What an incredible post, your angel was a beautiful, nurturing person and we are all better for it! I'd like to give Mrs. Iverson a big hug for giving us Grayquill! Love this post! We all need an angel, and you most certainly had one of the best!
Michele: Wow! Are you on roll or what? - I see a new animated side of Michele I haven't seen before. I like it! Of course it could have something to do with the great comment about givng us Grayquill. How could I not love that! Thanks-you're the best!
A blog post in third person. Dear Mr. Greyquil... I can see that you have been Chocoed...
But I loved this post...it made me sad, made me laugh and then the end was touching...
The teacher with flabby arms that swung side to side... I had one... and she was funny... we used to take pride in troubling her... we were not the best examples as students... she used to walk into class and the class would break into a collective "Haaaalls". We were in school and not permitted to say "Balls"
And I had a teacher who thought me french... I never learned the language... I was asked to sit outside the class... untill I brought a parent to meet her... I did not do that for six months... She was also the only one who told me... when I eventually brought my mother to school... that I had enormous potential... but all that would go to waste without discipline... I hated her then...
A year later... I became a prefect... and got to know much later that she had fought with the other members on the panel for me... That stint made me realise that I did have some leadership skills... and I learned discipline...
She no longer lives... but I thank God for sending her to screw my life during that one year where I could have swung towards self destruction
Thank You for writing on this topic...
Mr. Mind Meanders: The world is back in sync - your back.
Seeing the best or potential in another is a gift. Doing something about it changes a life.
Sounds like we both were blessed. What is a prefect? Is that like being class president?
I am glad you are back!
I am so very glad the angel with wrinkles came about when she did
she sure did know potential when she saw it
the yardtick loon was far too ugly a soul to be around children, so sad to think teaching and fear belong together
Dianne: It so is nice to be amoung friends. I have to believe that was not normal for her. It is was. how sad for to live her whole life with herself. I have often wondered what heavy pain that lady carried.
Thank you for stopping by - until next time
I'm of the firm belief that physical punishment for kids is totally uncalled for!
Your third person rendition is kinda catchy.
I've had my share of good and bad teachers. Glad you got your angel. Not many people are that lucky!
There I've written an entire comment properly (this time without even smilies and \o/-like symbols)! It looks so odd!
Mr. Blunt Edges: I salute you! Great Job! Question: Any physical punishment? None? Zippo? Nauda? Zero?
BTW: Your comment looks so clean, orderly, and readable. So unlike you.
I am not sure what prompts teachers to resort to physical abuse when they very well know that children can give a hard time to anyone. Don't they get trained to handle it in a better way.
Sometimes the teachers bruishes the child soul that sometimes remain scarred for life. I hope they know what thier purpose is when they decided to take up teaching.
One teacher can make that difference. Lift the spirits in such a way that one actually starts believing in themseleves.
The Survivor: I hear strong conviction - Well said. thanks for stopping by! I hope to hear from you again.
great post. the first para brought me near tears, the second amused and the third gave me that rare kiondof feeling whihc shouts that still alls well with the world.
Though,in school I have never faced physical punishment,infact can hardly remember being punished,except in the craft class, When I almost always ended out of the class,cos I hated stitching back then 7 would refuse to stitch or even bring in the materials. Other than that had a wonderful school life,Class Monitor for as long as I can remember 7 the pet of most of the teachers (Phew, i WAS BORING BACK THEN)
The first time a teacher hit me was when I was 17 years old, not because I was not a good student or din't behave ; But because I was a girl and the Sir absolutely hated girls. I remember him hitting all girls with a long bamboo stick the moment they dint answer a small question, while he would make guys do 10 sit ups every time they failed to answer. His prejudice always irked me, but the day he got a chance to hit me as I had forgotten to bring my Practical record to class; was the last time he ever hit a student( at least in my class). I was just too old to silently bear injustice.
Punishments are fine as long as they motivate the individual not to repeat it (and thus physical punishment is best avoided), but absolutely unbearable if they make the individual hate the task itself.
Meenakshi: Last paragraph insightful – I am glad you stood up for yourself. Good job!
Thanks for stopping by I hope to see you again, soon.
Now that's a question I would rather not answer! Life isn't always a bed of roses and I wasn't always this strong ;)
blunt edges: I wonder what you mean, 'this strong?' If you mean - there have been times you have lived below your conscious’s standards. Well, been there done that way too often myself.
Teachers have great influence--for good and bad. That was interesting your angel with wrinkles told you to read the book of Proverbs but even more interesting is that you actually did it! It's very important that teachers are nice if they want kids to learn.
Karen: I read it because she gave me hope.
Sometimes children who really need a Mrs. Iverson in their lives, are granted that blessing. Unfortunately, many only have the Mrs. Tornquist's thoughout their schooling days. I had a Mrs. Tornquist too - she would rap my knuckles every time I picked up a pencil in my left hand - she was mean with a capital "M". But like you, I had Ms. Brown come into my life, and I know the huge wonder of having a teacher who came in when I really needed one. A sad, poignant, but beautiful post, my friend.
I came over here to read this after reading today's post, GQ; and I'm glad I did. Mrs. Iverson was truly a gift to you. Have you ever tried contacting her to let her know the impact she had on your life? I have a friend who taught 2nd grade throught her whole teaching career. She still had people look her up to tell her how much she meant to them, and it thrills her heart every time.
Sadly, Mrs. Iverson would probably be fired for suggesting that you read Proverbs today.
This is such a beautiful post. Angels come in various disguises, but when it's a teacher, you come out a better person. Your story is so touching.
My angel is my English teacher, Ms. Mary Chandy who always had a word of encouragement and praise. She was a no-nonsense kind but what you felt was respect and not fear. It was not about unquestioning obedience (like some teachers demand) but understanding. I believe that makes all the difference.
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