While digging through some old file folders recently, I came across this story--the first I ever wrote as a grownup. At the time I was struggling with learning how to teach English at O'Rafferty High School, in Lansing, Michigan. That school is now closed, but for a while back in the mid-sixties it was a wonderful and exciting place to work and study. It was one of the very first Model Schools, and the administration encouraged us teachers to try anything and everything. One thing we tried in English was to do away with grade levels after the ninth grade and another was to make all English courses elective. So we'd have students of all ages and abilities in our classes (and we couldn't tell the official grade levels by the students' work or behavior). And we'd have kids clamoring for a second semester of Shakespeare and other such courses. Anyway, it was during that time that I wrote this little story.
"My land," said Miss Lawe. "You know we don't do things that way here." She emphasized her words by striking her desk with a heavy wooden yardstick. ''Now then, let's begin again." She aimed the yardstick at the poem she had written on the blackboard. "Class, read the first line in unison, please." "'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.'" "Very good, Now then, Elizabeth, what does the poet mean? "Well, um, she--'' "Why on earth do you say 'uh'? Speak up, dear." "She, well--I guess she means that she loves the person she's talking to--" "Writing to.'' ''Writing to very much, and wants to tell him." "Tell him what? Say what you mean.'' ''Why, how much she loves him, and how hard it is to--" "Very good, Elizabeth. Now, who knows how many ways she loved him? Robert?'' "Seven?" ''No. Count again. There are eight. What are they, class?'' "But Miss Lawe," Elizabeth said. I don't think she meant that. She only wrote eight of them down because--" Miss Lawe rapped on her desk with the yardstick. ''Elizabeth, I've told you before about interrupting the class. My goodness, you can't just talk whenever you feel like it. You have to wait your turn, just like everyone else. Raise your hand and wait to be called on. In a democracy, everyone must wait his turn. Or must I write it down for you?" She raised the yardstick and again took aim at the board. ''My land," she said. "We've certainly wasted a lot of time today."
The story seems rather didactic to me now--but it still amuses me, so I've put it here just for old times' sake. I've been told that a few English teachers have used it for their own purposes. If you can find a use for the story, I'll be pleased--but please just be sure not to profit from it (i.e., don't deprive me of any potential financial gain from the story), and be sure to include the copyright notice, which I otherwise wouldn't bother with. And please let me know if you find the story useful or amusing. --Don Maxwell
Copyright © 1966 and 1999 by Donald A. Maxwell, Jr.
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66 is 99 upside down.