"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Jan 5, 2015

Teacher of the Year



I’d like to nominate Mrs. Heinbraun [sic] because she’s the only academic I personally know most certainly inspired by the Gestapo.


Mrs. HB never yelled if someone back-talked or spoke a dirty word.  She calmly held the culprit's head in one hand and a bar of soap in the other at the classroom sink while the rest of us watched her demonstration of personal hygiene.


A classmate’s transgression, long forgotten, caused our entire class to be left behind from one school outing; something extremely important to inner-city kids.  Our consolation prize was a single-file march around the block that afternoon.  Funny how I still recall the iron bars of the schoolyard fence, heralding our return to Hades.

An enormous calendar was hung in plain sight, and on each day a student was good Mrs. HB would place a gold star in their name.   Five gold stars in one week meant a prize which, considering her standards, rarely happened.


I tried and tried yet could never manage more than 2 or 3 at a time, but persistence paid off:  5 gold stars sometime in April.  Mrs. HB smiled oh-so-pleasantly as she presented me with my prize:  a small coin purse with Chinese characters I keep within ready reach in case of fire.


She was a tyrant in the wrong profession.  Everyone has their breaking point, and Mrs. HB was no exception.  Every other month or so she would flip her proverbial wig, grab the wooden ‘pointer’ and begin.  The targets were lined in front of the class, and one at a time each child bent at the waist; no, not for what you’re thinking.


WHACK  went the pointer, once across the back.  Down the line of 6 or 8 she’d agonizingly proceed, while the rest of us watched.  One day the pointer aimed in my direction and suddenly I was up in the spotlight.


WHACK!  “Please, God, I promise to be good and not talk in class.”  WHACK!  “I’ll share my lunch with Bobby next time he asks.”  WHACK!  “I’ll even eat lima beans, or at least try!”


He musta heard (I’m not that kind of feminist) ‘cause two kids ahead of me the pointer splintered in half.  Mrs. HB briefly eyed the yardstick but must have discounted its effectiveness because she sent the rest of us back to our seats.  That’s when I knew for sure THERE IS A GOD.


How old are you in second grade? For those of you who have spawned, how impressionable are the psyches of children at that age?  When I half-joke that I drowned my own at birth, is this the root?


Always too anxious to please…no surprise there.  I shared the Whacking Story at one holiday dinner when I was in my 30s.  Mom stared at me, horrified, and asked why I never said anything at the time?


We all thought it was normal.  Now pushing 60 (ouch), maybe I should Kickstart a study of my second grade classmates from P.S. 150, Queens; circa 1962.  I know they’re out there, with the same stories as mine.  How many are in jail?  How many are spousal or child abusers, even a little?  Or am I the last one to consider a lawsuit?


Oh, you said COOL Teacher of the Year, not CRUEL!

Never mind.

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