Teacher: Mrs. Lingle
In another of those twist-of-fate things that happens in a small town that has a Christian school and a Christian college that are closely tied together, my third grade teacher was the wife of a man who would be my boss in 20+ years. At this time, though, I believe he worked for a scrap metal company – we either took a field trip there or he came into class once, I’m not entirely sure.
Third grade is the earliest memory I have of appalling one of my teachers. Though I tried to make it a regular practice in later years, this first instance was completely by accident. Somewhere along the line, I heard someone use the word “heck,” and it must have been someone I knew and trusted, because I thought it would be a fine word to use. The dictionary says that “heck” is “used as an intensive,” a way to make something be something a little bit more. I understood that meaning from this unremembered person’s use, but I didn’t know that the dictionary also says that “heck” is “used as a mild oath.”
Apparently – and you might sock this information away for future use yourself – Christian school teachers object to their students (especially third grade students) using mild oaths in their classrooms.
We were doing work in class, and anyone with a question was to go to the teacher’s desk and ask for help there. I must have been particularly stumped, because when I approached the desk I said, “I don’t know what the heck this means.” Not only did my teacher’s eyes widen in shock, but the next student in line, Mark B., mirrored her look and expanded on it with a hand to his mouth. It’s another one of those “I’ll never forget it as long as my brain works” things – those looks are permanently branded in my brain. If you’ve ever watched a mystery movie or TV show when the female protagonist realizes that not only is her new boyfriend the killer but he’s right behind her with a knife the size of a Buick, you’ve seen these looks, too. I was quickly disabused of the notion that “heck” was an okay word for me to be using, and life went on. I’m pretty sure Mark B. spread the tale of my being a pottymouth, but what can you do? There was no denying it.
There was a commercial on TV around this time, I think for International House of Pancakes, that had a fellow singing the line, “Another hectic weekday, with deadlines I must meet.” (I think the solution was to go eat pancakes, but I’m not sure.) I didn’t see much TV since, with few exceptions, my brother and I weren’t allowed to watch TV, so I must have seen this commercial while my mom was watching the news or something. I couldn’t believe he was allowed to sing the word “hectic” on TV. I though “heck” and “hectic” were related words, you see. The problem was the tune was catchy and I would sometimes sing it…and then promptly feel bad about singing the word “hectic.”
My hometown church was about 25 miles away from school and it provided a bus to take a whole pile of us to school and back every day. Third grade was the first time I remember snow affecting my school day. One day there came an announcement over the PA that all students riding the bus from Fort Atkinson were to be let out at noon because the snow was getting bad and was only getting worse. I’ll never be a king, but I know what being a king feels like. Every kid in the classroom was immediately jealous and a little bit awestruck. The whisperings and looks were the actions of a subjugated people yearning for the freedom of a half-day of school, and for a brief moment I was able to hold my head high. It didn’t last long, of course. When I returned to school I learned about the concept of “make-up work,” the Iron Mask worn by all pretenders to the throne.
I have a memory that I couldn’t place in a particular year, but judging by the years I was in third grade, it had to have happened then. I was young and naïve and didn’t understand politics. I knew we had a President and I knew there was some sort of contest going on to see who was going to be the next one. Everyone around me was talking about Ronald Reagan and hoping he was going to win. I distinctly remember feeling bad for Jimmy Carter, the current President. My pity was based on the fact that he was already President, so he should stay President. Besides, he liked peanuts and seemed nice enough. I got made fun of a lot when I was a kid – I was a weird kid, so it was mostly deserved – but I really got made fun of for this particular viewpoint. It wasn’t until I was older and more politically savvy that I realized that jelly beans trump peanuts any day of the week and the American people had made a wise choice.
Third Grade was fine, but Fourth Grade was the top of the bottom heap of elementary school, and I couldn’t wait to get there.