Miss George in the classroom

Sepia Saturday 446: Fifth in a series about my fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George — one of those friends, acquaintances and neighbors (FANs) who can make such a difference in a person’s life.

My fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George entered my life in September 1959 — a landmark school year for me with so many new  things to learn.

My memories of first through third grades do not stand out in the same way, although I am sure my teachers were able and dedicated.

Ready for my closeup in my fourth grade class photo (circa 1959-60). While in Miss George’s fourth grade class I learned to write cursive, appeared in a play and began studying French as a second language. Scan by Molly Charboneau

But I recall many details of fourth grade, which began when I was 9 years old. Foremost among them is Miss George holding forth and coaching us on one topic or another.

The blessing of cursive

For one thing, fourth grade was when we learned to perfect our cursive handwriting — that lovely, flowing style that is finally making a comeback after not being taught for a generation. And Miss George made sure we honed this invaluable skill.

First, she taught us how to make running ovals on lined paper — long lines of slinky-like circles that had to be even and neat as we held our  pencils at the proper angle.

Next, she had us fill in various silhouettes  (busts of presidents, animals, trees, you name it) with the delicate rows of circles — awarding stars and wall postings for those whose work excelled.

One of my  fourth grade art projects (circa 1959-60). I suspect I was a Marx Brothers fan, from the looks of this paper bag puppet made in Miss George’s class. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Finally Miss George gave specific instruction in how to form each letter just so, and how to link them together into words — something I continued to refine up through junior high.

I was heartbroken when I learned that schools had stopped teaching cursive handwriting — a must for rapid note taking and for deciphering family and historical documents.

So I was pleased to discover it has recently returned to school curricula — and I’m sure Miss George would be pleased, too.

Art, awards and a visiting French teacher

My mother, who taught elementary school music, diligently saved my landmark childhood projects, report cards and awards — and those of my siblings — in a “baby box” that was later presented to each of us as adults. So I have a couple of souvenirs from my time with Miss George.

One is a cigar-smoking paper bag puppet (above) that has lasted through the years — a sample of the type of creative art project Miss George assigned to us. The other is my wrapper from a large Hersey’s candy bar (below) — a major reward presented by Miss George for a job well done.

Wrapper of a coveted award from Miss George (circa 1959-60). Miss George gave out large candy bars as rewards for a job well done. Alas, my younger brothers ate mine! Photo by Molly Charboneau

My younger brother Mark told me that I hung onto the intact candy bar for a while to savor the pleasure of the prize — until he and my youngest brother Jeff snuck into my room, tore open the wrapper and started eating it!

Yet another landmark fourth grade event was the introduction of French language immersion by a visiting instructor.

I remember gazing quizzically out Miss George’s classroom window at falling snow as the teacher repeated over and over, “La neige est blanche.” (The snow is white.) — to try to teach the concept of black and white. I am grateful for those early French lessons whenever I research my Québécois ancestors!

I take to the stage

Perhaps my most vivid memory from my year with Miss George is taking to the stage in my first acting role.

As discussed in the last post, Miss George regularly used stagecraft to impart lessons to her students. And in 1959-60 she created two plays about town and state history that were put on by my fourth grade class. More on this in the next post.

Please stop back as this series continues. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs  of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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8 thoughts on “Miss George in the classroom”

  1. What good memories. I need to be like your mom and give all those mementos I saved to my kids – but I’m still hoarding, I guess. Thinking about your mom saving the chocolate wrapper. 🙂

    1. It’s all about the timing, I guess. Funny thing was, the year she handed out the boxes some of my sibs weren’t yet to ready to accept them since they had always been a constant at my parents’ home.

  2. My mom taught elementary art for many years and considered fourth grade her favorite age. Children are still open to new ideas and school was an adventure, not yet a boring drudge. I don’t remember much from my own fourth grade as it was at two schools, one in Maryland and then in Germany at a US Army base. Over the years as an army brat it was too many teachers for any individual mentor to stick in memory. I suppose it was more quantity over quality.

    1. I am fortunate that from 2nd grade through High School, I was in the same school district — so my past teachers like Miss George were still around even after I was in their class. My siblings’ experience was more like yours — moves for my dad’s job resulted in lots of school changes.

    1. At a friend’s house recently, one of their grad-school-age daughters introduced me one of her girlfriends and said, “She knows cursive.” Odd that a skill we learned routinely is now considered a rarity!

  3. Such a great memory of 4th grade activities…sorry you didn’t get to eat your own chocolate. But it’s great that you saved (or Mom did) the wrapper. Loved Groucho!

    1. I am forever grateful to my mom for saving all that she did. She was too busy to scrapbook, but those baby boxes were just as good…and quicker to toss things into.

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