Go Home, Miss Poe


When an old friend discovered that I was thinking of writing a slim book about teaching, she sent me a text and the above picture.

Thought about you when I saw these hearts on the beach. The title of your new book for teachers should be It Is All About the Heart. I saw a presentation yesterday and they gave out rulers and talked about how we can retain more students if we just show we care more.

What advice would I include in a book for teachers, not a book that tells about the importance of curriculum planning and competency based instruction, but one that offers tips and suggestions for enjoying the profession? The first thing I’d probably say is that respect is a two-way street. Students are people too, and a haughty, arrogant attitude won’t work.

Here’s an old blog post that I’m thinking of including in a future book.

In one of my classes, we were discussing intelligence.  Is it more the product of nature or nurture? Are there things in the environment that can enhance intellectual abilities? If so, what are they? One of the bulleted items on power point was “Educational Experiences,” and when I asked the class to share something they thought might fit that description, I got several examples, none of which I was looking for.

I had expected the students to say standard things like reading to a child, taking him to a zoo, or engaging him in a two-way conversation. These students, however, interpreted educational experiences to be only those that took place inside of a school, specifically a classroom. I’m sorry to report that none of their examples were uplifting ones.

One young woman told of a teacher hitting her in the stomach with a ruler because she wouldn’t stop talking. Another shared how one of her teachers laughed at her when she couldn’t solve a math problem on the board, making her cry and instilling a lifelong fear of math and the teachers who teach it. Still another confessed that only now has he developed enough confidence to speak up in class IF called on. Otherwise, he keeps quiet.  His third grade teacher seemed to have selected him as her target for particularly scathing remarks that year.

Why don’t teachers like the ones who taught these students at an earlier time of their lives just pack their book bags and go home?????  There surely comes a moment when you know, “Uh oh, this is not for me,” and when that happens, walk out. Don’t wait for the bell to ring or the grading period to end. Just go. There are enough mean spirited people in the world without you adding to the problem.

My students’ comments reminded me of something I read in Same Kind of Different as Me.  Ron Hall, co-author and millionaire, gave an account of a shameful experience that occurred  when he and other schoolchildren had to bring urine samples to school for health screening purposes. He made the mistake of taking his sample to his teacher instead of to the school nurse.

The teacher, Miss Poe, marched the class to the playground and announced that little Ronnie wouldn’t be participating in recess. “Because he was stupid enough to bring his Dixie cup to the classroom instead of the nurse’s office, he will spend the next thirty minutes with his nose in a circle,” she said.

From the book: “Miss Poe then produced a fresh stick of chalk and scrawled on the redbrick school wall a circle approximately three inches above the spot where my nose would touch if I stood on flat feet. Humiliated, I slunk forward, hiked up on tiptoes, and stuck my nose on the wall….After fifteen minutes, my toes and calves cramped fiercely, and after twenty minutes, my tears washed the bottom half of Miss Poe’s circle right off the wall. With the strain of loathing peculiar to a child shamed, I hated Miss Poe for that. And as I grew older, I wished I could send her a message that I wasn’t stupid.”

Ron Hall is an exceptional person, smart and accomplished. He had the confidence and social skills to become a successful adult despite a crabby, bad-tempered teacher. Not all children are so fortunate. Go home, Miss Poe. We need teachers who care.



About jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer
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