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that schools had stopped teaching cursive handwriting — a must for rapid note taking and for deciphering family and historical documents.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