March 13, 2017

In 3rd grade Mrs. Magarity, Principal, told my mother that she put me in Mrs. Godard’s class as one of 8 girls to “help” with the 15 boys also in the class. The boys were tough. It was a tough year. I remember being teased mercilessly. It seemed that no matter what I said or did, I became a target for their jokes. Most days I went home and cried. When my mother was exasperated with my tears, my sister would try to help me cope.

Back then girls were not allowed to wear pants to school. It was dresses only. The boys loved to find ways to flick our skirts up, pull our pigtails or ponytails, and experimented with various crude hand gestures. I knew nothing about what those words and gestures meant. My naive innocence just seemed to encourage them. Recess was miserable.

One day this group of boys had broken a mirror. They put pieces of mirror on their shoes anchored between the crisscrosses of their shoelaces. The object was to get close enough to a girl to be able to see up her dress with the mirror. All day was spent dodging their quick feet in terror of a successful attempt and having my underwear be the topic of more teasing.

I remember that some days Mrs Godard would get so angry her neck would turn red. Sometimes the principal would come in and threaten punishment. She was a formidable woman to us. We often had class punishment of putting our heads down for an extended time. It was confusing for me because I was never sure whether I should feel bad or not.

Yet, Mrs. Godard holds a special place in my life. She was tough, but kind to me. Once she invited me and my family to come hear her sing at her church in Arlington. It was not far from where we lived, so my parents took me that Sunday evening. I don’t remember what she sang, but I remember the warm spring air with the scent of lilacs and felt special to be invited. My mom and I dressed up and my dad wore his best suit. I can still see her standing proudly in that colonial chapel lit by chandeliers. Her voice was strong and filled the chapel.

I cried in High School when I learned she had died of cancer.

 

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8 comments on “March 13, 2017

  1. Ellen Smith says:

    Wow – that does sound like an extraordinarily tough year – I’m so sorry. I’m glad you felt you had a close relationship with her – the opportunity to hear her sing must have been powerful. Thank you for sharing.

  2. djvichos says:

    Your story elicits so many emotions and is is written beautifully. I’m stunned at what you and Ms. Godard had to endure as student and teacher. It seems it brought you together. I’m glad that the two of you could connect outside of difficult circumstances and share something beautiful together.

  3. lvahey says:

    I’m hoping it’s helpful to write through this memory… it’s so powerful and filled with pain, yet you find some light in it, too. Ms. Godard must have cared for you, to invite you to hear her sing.

  4. Thanks for sharing your memories. You are such a wonderful storyteller. As I was reading your story, I was thinking about my class today and their utter lack of self control, along with my many requests for polite, respectful manners. I wonder how my students will remember me?

  5. berries781 says:

    I, too, had a wonderful 3rd grade teacher. Still my favorite of all of my teachers. They can definitely make an impact on you. It made me sad to hear yours passed away. I often wonder about mine and if she is still around.

    I had a pretty bad middle school experience with lots of teasing, so I get that too. I’m sorry you got treated that way.

  6. My heart went out to that third grade girl…and the high school you who cried when your teacher died. What tough and beautiful memories.

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