Our school was tiny, so tiny that even with two grades sharing a room and teacher, there were still usually less than fifteen students in the two grades. The good news was, if you didn’t learn everything you should have in second grade math, you got another crack at it in third grade while the new second grade covered the same material. Though each class used different books, the lessons sounded much the same.
With the large families of the fifties and sixties, it was inevitable that teachers taught entire families over the years. This wasn’t a problem for the good student. I followed Phyllis, perfection incarnate. She studied the rule book at night for extra credit. Billy was lucky enough to come right behind me, a scatterbrain known for daydreaming and chattering in class. The only thing he had to contend with was “I hope you sit still and pay attention better than your sister.” I don’t think it worried him much. At the end of the line came Connie and Marilyn, only a year apart in age. They shared classrooms most of the time.
Marcia and Darcy, the twins, were the jewels in the crown of Miz McZumley’s teaching career, the classroom darlings. Unlike most harried, fertile mothers of our classmates, their unfortunate mother had only two children. She hovered over them, made all their identical outfits and sent crust less sandwiches, carrot sticks and home baked cookies in their lunches. They probably owned more clothes than the rest of the ragtag class put together. Worst of all, they were bashful, well-behaved children who always got to school with their homework, signed permission slips and lunch money. It was hard to find fault with them aside from pure envy. Despite being held up as examples of “all things bright and beautiful,” they were still nice kids.
Miz McZumley was adamant about two things; learning your addition and subtraction “facts” and going to the bathroom during recess. On one particularly difficult day, she had been drilling the class on their facts rigorously the period just before lunch. Frustrated with the lack of progress, she barked at the class to put their “fact sheets” away under their desks. A boy foolishly asked to go to the bathroom. She slammed her book down and roared, “NO!! You’ll be going out to lunch in fifteen minutes. I’ll spank the next one who asks to go to the bathroom.”
All over the classroom, nervous bladders spasmed. As luck would have it, one of the shyest kids in class had the fullest bladder. Poor Marcia’s bladder panicked and a golden stream trickled down, pooling on the books and papers on the shelf under her desk and the floor. Kids tittered until Miz McZumley noticed the problem. In a moment of kindness she sent the class outdoors, letting some of the girls stay to help Marcia gather her books and papers to lie on the window sill to “air out.” That evening Connie and Marilyn couldn’t wait to report Marcia’s disaster, but were relieved that, in spite of being wet, “her facts didn’t run.”