Friday, June 18, 2004
Rants and Skewers Part 2
I mentioned one teacher that was perpetually in a mood. If you were at that school in those days, this would qualify as the understatement of the epoch. Said teacher was Mrs. Sherwin, who had the charms of Medusa and the temperament of Yosemite Sam without the redeeming social graces. In addition to intimidating either a fifth or sixth grade class, Mrs. Sherwin ran the school assemblies, most of which consisted of either singing patriotic songs or camp songs (her favorite being a real toe-tapper entitled "I Love The Mountains", which usually necessitated playing Disraeli Gears as soon as you got home to get the damn song out of your head) in rounds, or running some ghastly educational film, usually from Coronet or some other sadistic provider, "teaching" you to clean your nails, or focusing on some piece of broadloom for 20 minutes while some guy channeling Ben Stein's monotone droned on (invariably the projector would be misthreaded, and the soundtrack would come across sounding something like "rrrrrryyyydddennnnnnn rrrrooooooeeerrr").
The lady in question also had what I charmingly refer to as "The Alternate Lesson Plan", which she would break out every couple of months to demonstrate the proper procedure to accomplish a power trip. The "Alternate Lesson Plan" consisted of Mrs. Sherwin becoming royally annoyed during the Pledge of Allegiance / Star Spangled Banner ceremony that opened each assembly, usually when the kids were sitting down after the flag was placed into its holder. She would announce in that withering voice that "Your sitting is very poor today", and then would proceed to have two complete grades worth of kids practice standing and sitting down on command via piano chords (and let me tell you, Jerry Lee Lewis or Vladmir Horowitz, she wasn't) for the next 90 minutes.
The "Alternate Lesson Plan" was not restricted to that school, and actually made appearances in junior high school and even once in high school (where it was met with the contempt it richly deserved), and apparently it was well-known throughout the New York City public school system. The late, great Sam Levenson even mentioned it in his 1970's book "In One Era and Out The Other", and he had stopped teaching sometime in the 1950s. A rather small potatoes approach to wasting tax dollars compared with the other nonsense that New York City and specifically its Board Of Education could muster, but I found it rather interesting that not one parent complained that this teacher completely wasted two hours of instructional time on a fairly regular basis in order to either a) make a disciplinary point because the kids banged the seats a bit too loudly, completely idiotic in this school, as it was mostly filled with kids who made the Brady Bunch look like juvenile delinquents, or b) had a serious power trip going on. I recall mentioning my distaste for this activity to the parental units, who responded with the traditional cultural approach to a problem such as this - "Shhh, don't make trouble".
The gentleman whose reminiscences formed the basis for this particular thread posited in his missive that Mrs. Sherwin was, shall we say, frustrated in certain aspects of her life. His phraseology in the matter was somewhat coarse, which as a matter of course completely cracked me up (and probably would any alumnus of this particular institution) as no one in their right minds would've dared postulate on such matters, as it was alleged that Mrs. Sherwin was telepathic and her mere askance glance could kill at thirty paces.
Rather nice to know that today's educational idiots were able to evolve nicely from the Cro-Magnon educational idiots.