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Who stole my hub caps???Posted Tuesday, November 15, 2011, at 1:03 PM
Former students from the first class I ever taught--circa 1964-1966--invited me to their 45th year reunion at the Bell City Community Center Saturday night, Nov. 12, 2011. Talk about a Blast from the Past!
Forty-five years ago, I began my teaching career, full of optimism that I was going to change the world and bring enlightenment to the young teenage minds within the walls of my first school.
There were five of us, me and four other newbies, entering the hallowed halls of Bell City High School in the fall of 1964. Two of us were Semo graduates and the other three were from Arkansas State and Murray State. We were young. We were green. We were desperate to hide the fact that this was our first time in the classroom. My friend Rae and I hid all the copies of the Sagamore, the yearbook that held our senior pictures.
It wasn't until this last Saturday night, Nov. 12, 2011, that I discovered -- Sandy Watkins Miller was the only one who didn't know how young we were. I can't imagine how she missed it.
I discovered a few things I had forgotten:
* I had told Becky Wheeler not to get married right out of high school. Don't remember that - but Saturday I met her husband of 45 years of marriage. Bombed out on that one! Who did I think I was--barely 22 and dispensing advice like that?
* On the good news field--One student told me that, when he dropped out of school, I was the only one who tried to talk him out of it. Thank you for telling me that.
Things I had NOT forgotten:
* SOMEONE STOLE THE SPINNER HUBCAPS OFF MY 1964 CHEVY SUPER SPORT! It was my first car!
To make matters worse, the unscrupulous culprit stole the hub caps while I was inside the school building, sponsoring the Bellmo yearbook dance!!! Talk about a kick in the teeth!
* Another thing I've never forgotten was the wonderful man who was my very first principal--Glen Duckworth. I think he may have been new that year, too, but he had a natural good nature and feel for dealing with teenagers. He later became a probation officer, and I met his widow not too long ago at a library directors' meeting at the Keller Library in Dexter. I told her how much I had treasured his help at that early stage of my career. I wish I could have told him.
I remember going to him and saying, "Mr. Duckworth, I have a problem."
"Well, let's go to the teachers' lounge. I'll buy you a Coke, and we'll talk about it," he'd say.
Back then, the "teacher's lounge" was a tiny, unfinished room, lined with empty Coke bottles. Mr. Duckworth stuck a dime in the machine and bought me a glass bottle of Coke (like it's never tasted since!). Then, we'd sit back on the folding metal chairs, and he'd listen to my problems, a slight smile on his face, as if to say, "Okay, I'll listen, Mrs. DeJournett, but--believe me--you do NOT have problems!!"
If I said that a student had a "bad attitude," Mr. D. would say, "Well, bring him down to my office, and I'll straighten out his 'attitude'!"
Back then, the paddle was an acceptable and often used educational tool. Saturday night, my former students regaled their classmates with colorful stories of paddlings they had received--or (in Ronnie Watkins' case) NOT received back "in the day." What unmitigated rascals!!!
I taught for 32 years in 5 schools, and I've long lost count of the number of students who have passed through my door. However, that group of juniors/seniors are some of the most vivid in my memory. Whether we were doing class projects or putting a yearbook together, they were right there beside me, taking their instructions and performing above and beyond all expectations.
Saturday night they stood, one at a time, and told me what they had been doing since they graduated, and I was struck by how talented and successful they had all become. At 41 (or was it 43?) they were the largest class to come through the system, and I'm pleased to say that they went out into the world and were a credit to all of us who touched their lives in that distant time.
I have carried their memory with me for 45 years, as a shining example of what students could be. Very rarely did any class measure up to that example in the subsequent years that followed. I thought about them often, as I did their principal, and I often wished I could walk back into that aging classroom there beside the railroad tracks and feel again the optimism and excitement of a glorious new endeavor.
God bless you, Class of 1966, for giving me the best gift that students could give their teacher--a wonderful beginning to a long career!
I'll see you again in five years! You have till then to find out WHO STOLE MY HUBCAPS!!
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-722-5322.