Mrs. Pratt visits

Does your eighth grade English teacher ever visit your workplace? And I do mean *English* teacher. Back in the Pleistocene, there was no such thing as “Language Arts”. We learned English and we learned it well. Or else.

My 8th grade English teacher visits from somewhere over on the other side. I’m not sure when she made the journey over there but she was old when I was in 8th grade. Or at least I thought she was old. She dressed a lot like my grandma and had nicely permed white hair like my grandma. I realize now that she probably wasn’t a whole heckuva a lot older than *I* am *now* and lemme just say that I am NOT OLD!!! No. Not yet! Thank you very much. Grok grok gork! Wuddya meen yer not old, yoo ol’ bag? Yoo are at leest 110! Grok grokfegork! Excuse me a minute. Frooggy, get outta here! Sorry about that. Don’t mind him. What I was trying to say before that rude amphibious interruption is that Mrs. Pratt probably did not think of herself as old.

Anyway. Mrs. Pratt ran a very tight ship, if I am remembering accurately. You sat in your seat and you were quiet unless you were called on and if you wanted to stay in her good graces, you did your homework and turned it in on time. No lame excuses. Dogs did not eat homework in Mrs. Pratt’s world. Yes. We did learn English. Or else. We were drilled extensively in the intricacies of the various parts of speech and how to properly put them together into sentences and how to punctuate those sentences.

Actually, I LOVED Mrs. Pratt’s class. I am a GEEK! I loved learning the technicalities of English. Alas, I scored just about zero in self-esteem as a young teenager. Fitting in with the crowd seemed to mean not getting good grades and so sometimes I deliberately did sub-standard work in a lame attempt to fit in with the crowd. This is not some “Oh woe is me, I was so unpopular” diatribe. Junior high is hard for most kids for many different reasons and our educational system could do a better job with educating that age group but that would be a whole ‘nother entry or six or 10. One of my daughters thinks middle school kids should be sent out to live/work on a farm for the duration and I can’t say I disagree with her. Anyway. I never quite fit in with the crowd but my teenage life was only intermittently horrible and in my adult life, I eventually sort of figured out who the heck I was and gained the courage (mostly) to be meeeee. Nowadays I often find myself more popular than I want to be. *Because* I am a little weird or quirky or whatever. Go figure.

Every job I have ever had has involved a LOT of writing. (Take a note, kiddos.) In my current (beloved) job, it is absolutely imperative that the documents I write make sense to the audience for which they are intended. If they do not, that audience will be right there, knocking on my cube asking me, “what the HECK are you talking about?” And I will have to hem and haw and clarify. I may not always be able to recite the rules I learned in eighth grade English but I can use most of them in a knee-jerk fashion and if I am stumped, I can summon up Mrs. Pratt to my loverly, dog-poopy, cube pretty darn quickly.

I wonder if Mrs. Pratt knows how much some of her students value her. I’m sure she’s not hanging around with Grandroobly and The Engineer driving freighters and drinking bourbon on the beach (but who knows). But maybe somebody else is over there showing her how to use the Internet. Cheers to Mrs. Pratt and all “old fashioned” English teachers. You all rock!

This post was brought to you by Facebook. Or more accurately, by an old friend I’ve reconnected with on Facebook, who reminded me of Mrs. Pratt today. I love Facebook! The randomness of it and all of the old and new friends and family I’ve connected with there. Too much fun! Love all my FB friends! And the rest of you too!

3 Responses to “Mrs. Pratt visits”

  1. Margaret Says:

    I actually wrote a note to my 2nd grade teacher about reading us Nancy Drew mysteries and introducing me to the joy that was reading mysteries. They were well above my level, but I devoured them anyway–that led to my lifelong love of reading and that genre. Not too long after that, she died. I’m thankful I got a chance to tell her how much she impacted my life. I also loved diagramming sentences in 8th grade-what a geek I was!! (am?)

  2. Tonya Watkins Says:

    I actually just encountered my 8th grade English (ok, Language Arts…) teacher this past November at my band director’s memorial service. I hadn’t seen him since 8th grade, but I recognized him immediately!! He claimed to recognize me, too, but I really have to wonder about that. Anyway, I loved Mr. Ruble. Of course, I loved English (even “Language Arts”) — aside from band, my favorite subject. He was tough, but very fun and funny and quirky. I remember that one assignment was to write a short story. He gave me an A+ on it! (I still have it, too!)

    Then there was my high school English/composition (also yearbook) teacher whom I considered my mentor. Many people didn’t like her at all — she was very, very tough and demanding and opinionated and sometimes tactless (picture a middle-aged imperious woman with flaming red hair and glasses on a chain around her neck). She LOVED me. And the feeling was mutual. When she criticized me, I knew it was for good reason. But she heaped praise, too. At the end of my senior year, she wrote in my yearbook, “Let me know when you have been published.” Many years later (almost 20!), I had some poetry published in several small press literary journals and I immediately thought of her. I knew that she’d dumped her husband of decades and married her college sweetheart and was living in Nebraska, probably close to 80 years old by then. I hunted down her address (whole ‘nother story) and wrote to her and thanked her for all that she had taught me, all the self-esteem that she had instilled in me, and for believing in me. She wrote me back a beautiful letter and I know she was very touched.

    For those of us who truly gave a s*#t about learning, teachers had such an amazing impact on our lives. Certain teachers, to be sure. (There were others who didn’t so much…) I know that Margaret hears from many of her former students who are compelled to tell her what a positive impression she made on their lives. Those special teachers really stick with us.

  3. Karen F. Says:

    I’ve had teachers that have made lasting impressions for various reasons. My high school English teacher – while kind of a perverted old woman who was perpetually announcing her retirement, then changing her mind after a yearbook page had been created in her honor – did make sure we had a sound basis for writing. She corrected my habit of using “in which” (mostly) and other verbal “tics”… but I still canNOT forgive her for MAKING members of the class reenact “Leda and the Swan”…