Let’s have some fun. Let’s all think back to the days when we were youngsters spending part of our time sitting in classrooms and trying to consume the sometimes unpalatable stuff dumped onto our educational plates.

Except for school, childhood days were the “good old days,” weren’t they? We were young, healthy, growing like weeds, and basically focused on each other, not on nouns, verbs, and arithmetic. We wore out our clothes from the inside out, and lost ourselves in days filled with the joys of being young.

Even school days, with all their doggone do’s, don’ts, and desks, were not so bad at times, were they? Oh sure, there were times when we had to remain silent when we were ready to explode with the need to say something to somebody, but we slipped past that hurdle most of the time. And what the heck! Having to hold something in for a long time was sometimes great because once we finally got it out we came doggone close to breaking our faces with secretly shared giggling.

Ah, yes! Even many decades later I can still remember those days in school, can’t you?

And there are a few teachers I remember well too, even back in good old PS-16 in Staten Island, with its old-fashioned wooden desks with brass inkwells, into which a dunce in my second grade class thought would be great idea to dip pretty Anita Long’s blond braids, a move he quickly had reason to regret. That was the only time in Miss Bankey’s class that we ever heard her raise her voice; and about a month later when we were told that the dunce’s family had moved, half the class suspected he’d been secretly taken out and shot.

And, oh me! Miss Bankey herself. Every kid in our class just loved her.

On the other hand, there was Miss Balmer, my first grade teacher. Whew! Could that tall, rangy, white haired old lady yell! I once made a bet that she could yell loud enough to blow the hair right off a kid’s head.

Not only that, but when I was a third-grader sitting in the lunchroom downstairs I saw Miss Balmer grab a kid in the lunch line by his hair, yank him off his feet, and shake him out like a dusty rug. Ouch!

Back in those days I hadn’t the slightest clue that I would someday become a teacher myself. In fact, much later, when I was a senior in high school I thought Mrs. Campbell, our school counselor, had gone nuts when she incorrectly told me that I could never become a scientist because I was slightly color-blind, and then suggested that I should go to college and become an English teacher.

“Me teach?” I thought. “Not a chance!”

Many years later, when the Air Force put me through a school from which I graduated as a drill instructor, I didn’t at first realize that a DI, who spends his days getting young men ready for military life, is as much a teacher as all those men and women I had seen standing at the front of a classroom.

One day even later, as part of getting ready to teach others how to teach, I took a course in adjustment psychology that explained how and why we learn. It made me ask myself a question:

Surely, when Miss Balmer was a school kid she must have had teachers she hated. So how could she have let herself become one of them?

Next week: Some interesting answers.

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