With another school year starting, I was thinking about the new school years and the teachers I had.
I can name each of the teachers I had from kindergarten through high school. They were all good teachers. It was my second grade teacher, Mrs. Pitts, who made the biggest difference in my education.
In my first two years of school I was this indifferent student who went to school only because my parents made me. I didn’t enjoy it that much because I was much happier at home where I could decide what I was going to do.
School was something I tolerated. And it must have shown up in my learning.
I knew Mrs. Pitts was going to be my second-grade teacher and I knew she was a disciplinarian. She was there to teach and we students were there to learn that was it.
In kindergarten and first grade I had seen the second-grade students, who had Mrs. Pitts, stand outside the class room door, red-eyed with tears in their eyes. Mrs. Pitts’ discipline was verbal, and if needed, could be physical.
The first day of school we were instructed to bring a book bag to school because there was going to be homework every night. And there was. My book bag was in shreds by spring.
She also said she was going to divide the class into two groups A and B – based on our reading ability.
Apparently she had a visit with our first-grade teacher who told her about each of our abilities.
She called out who was going to be in group A and I watched my friends go to the front of the room. I was in group B, the group that I knew of as “slow learners.”
She said that members of group B could read for her and if they did well, they could go into group A. I knew what I had to do.
She gave us a copy of a reading textbook to read from and I looked those pages over intently, preparing for my turn. There was no way I was going to stay in group B.
When my turn came, I read for all I was worth and when I was done, Mrs. Pitts told me I could be in group A. Whew.
That was probably one of the first times I learned I had an ability to compete, and if I decided I could change an outcome, I had the power to do that.
Mrs. Pitts introduced us to her method of teaching reading, something called phonics. We spent the year learning about phonics and more. It was a year of intense studying for us second-graders.
At noon recess, the bell rang halfway through at 12:30 and then at 12:50 when recess was done. Many days we were told by Mrs. Pitts to come in at the 12:30 bell because we had that much to do.
When the school year ended, two families of my classmates complained to the school board about how Mrs. Pitts had treated their sons. The sons started the school year in group B and stayed there.
I am not sure they graduated from high school.
The school board dismissed Mrs. Pitts from her teaching duties.
She did get a teaching job in another town, the town where she lived, and taught there until she retired.
My two younger sisters never got to learn from Mrs. Pitts. They were both good students so it probably did not make a lot of difference in their lives.
However, Mrs. Pitts instilled in me a love of reading that set the course for the rest of my life.
And to this day, when I see a word I am not familiar with, I can hear Mrs. Pitts telling me to, “Sound it out.”
And that has made all the difference.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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