It was my junior year in high school, and I was sitting in my college prep English class. My teacher, Mrs. Buckwalter announced it was time to begin class.
She stood up. She cleared her throat. She tapped her foot. She straightened her blouse. She started to walk. She was ready for her daily ritual of teaching while patrolling the classroom. To tell you the truth, my teacher scared me to death.
Mrs. B. was about 5’ 9”. She wore granny glasses. Her blonde streaked gray hair was styled in a tight bun. She usually wore a dark-colored skirt, white blouse and black pumps.
You could hear her garters rub against the lining of her skirt when she walked. Plus, her teaching methods were very unusual.
While she walked around the classroom, she had the habit of shouting your name, while standing right next to your desk. Then she’d pause for a second and bark at you the most difficult question.
Even if you knew the answer, she shouted so loud that you forgot it.
Unfortunately for the students, a major component of the grade was class participation. And participation was difficult with her standing next to you shouting questions.
Plus, she had to be at least 140 years old.
We could not chew gum or talk in class. When the bell rang, we had to be in our seats, with our books open. We could not talk to classmates at any time during class. Our faces were to be focused on her.
In spite of the classroom tension, I still wanted a good grade. It would be hard to get an A, because when I walked into her room my self-confidence drained onto the floor.
I considered wearing my hair like hers and dressing in a dark skirt with white blouse. It didn’t work. Several of us tried it.
In fact, one day at school, the English halls were filled with Mrs. Buckwalter look-a-likes.
Anyway, I was bound and determined to get an A in English. I did well on the tests. However, class participation brought my grade down.
It was the end of the semester and I was getting desperate. I started to memorize the homework. I was going to get an A if it killed me.
Soon enough, it was the first day of the last month of school. I was prepared for Mrs. Buckwalter’s class. I knew everything an 11th grade college-bound English student should know.
I walked into Mrs. Buckwalter’s room and quickly found my desk. I kept my face focused on her.
It was my turn for a question from her. I just knew it. She stood up and moved toward my desk.
She stopped and shouted my name. Then she asked the question. I knew the answer. It was “alliteration.” Yes, I knew the answer!
I looked up at Mrs. Buckwalter and attempted to respond. Nothing would come out of my mouth.
I tried again. I couldn’t say a word. I was gasping for air. If I could just squeak out “alliteration,” I had my A.
She walked past me and onto her next victim. I missed my chance for an A.
I have never forgotten that experience.
In spite of it all, I learned more from Mrs. Buckwalter than any other teacher. Her craziness worked. She scared it into me.
Oh, if Mrs. Buckwalter knew that I was writing a weekly newspaper column, she would roll over in her grave. In fact, even while I type this column, I can feel that she is standing behind me.
I can hear her clear her throat and tap her black.
I can feel her next to me. I dispose of my gum. I sit up. I’m starting to sweat. It’s all coming back, oh no!
I turn around in my chair and yell “alliteration.”
Dog Mocha looks up, yelps, and then lays back down.
I did know the answer. Finally, I have a witness.
Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County's Family Week Foundation. Email her at Director@jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.