school kids fascinated by enigmatic teacher
|Junior High School Live And In Person
Many times I remember Miss Callahan, a teacher I had in the seventh grade. She was Irish and had what you might say was a commanding presence. She had a simply enormous blossom and favored outfits of bright green and bright purple always with matching shoes. She loved walking up and down the rows of desks and also up in front of the class, all the while giving us small speeches. However she was not like my husband's Irish history teacher who would spend entire class periods berating the British
Miss Callahan was sincerely interested in all of us and was convinced that there was nothing like application to get the job done. Ostensibly she was a teacher of English, but I am not exactly certain what it was she taught: perhaps like all the great teachers, she taught a portion of her self I guess, and what it means to have a self, and be unique. One thing I recall most notably was that she was unsmiling, stern in some strange way that frightened me a little bit. There appeared to be no sympathy nor sentimentality in her, or if so it did not show. These characteristics being odd in the Irish, and especially for me a truly fascinating anomaly to behold! Having a considerable amount of both in me, I rather always believed "you get sentimentality from the Irish and sentiment from the Scotch."
Anyway into this sedulous tableau she appeared each day and made us write innumerable times one single poem entitled "Opportunity ". By Edwin Rowland Sill, and to this day I do not remember running into anything else with his name attached to it, as the time of our studies of the poem was over 60 years ago, circa 1935 or in close proximity there of, so it seems that I would have happened upon more of his work...just by chance... but alas tis not so..
Yes we wrote "Opportunity " and wrote it , and continued to write it, again and again and then we recited it and recited it and recited it, until we all had it perfect, (or as perfect as was possible under the circumstances). It was a class project or a team project.
The poem started out as I remember so very well: "This I beheld or dreamed it in a dream...... a fierce battle raging, swords clashed upon swords and shields, a craven hung along the battle's edge..." as the poems denouement precedes . If you feel so inclined read the poem.
Do you think she was somewhat misguided to spend so much time on one thing, this particular poem? I wonder if anywhere in my life I profited from this?
She not being afraid to express herself, and her evaluation of opportunities as being more an action of seizing boldly upon advantages in our existing circumstances than a gentle zephyr of good fortune that might somehow waft into ones life.
Sometimes I feel that I have profited grandly from this tenacious, and relentless method of teaching or instruction, as this perspective or grasp of reality can be absolutely crucial in many ways for one to persevere beyond countless adverse or dismal circumstances which may arise throughout the course of our lifetime, as this attitude can offer us great hope and encouragement as we so often become immersed in matters of despair or utter dismay.
I can imagine now that she could hardly be pleased by my fourteen page report on Mark Twain's "Joan Of Arc", and yet who knows after thinking it over, maybe my dogged persistence in getting it ALL down on paper was kind of like her own persistence was it not? It might have pleased her, I hope so! But she was surely not one to show it was she? She just pursed her lips a bit when she handed it back to me and made some wry comment, I have forgotten what . But there was no way for me not to love her, then and now.
And of course I remember what I imagine most people would remember, some outward gestures, especially a theatrical one where she would slowly and pretentiously retrieve her glasses' case from the place where it was safely tucked in her bosom, pulling the little silk ribbon until the case came into view, then taking her time about perching the tiny spectacles on her nose (they had only a nose clip to secure them, nothing to go over the ears), the ribbon drooping down, she would view whatever she needed to view, then slowly reverse the procedure, as though it gave her the utmost pleasure in the world and she was not conscious of the ecstatic eyes glued upon her. If she wore a green costume that day , the glasses' case was green as well as the shoes, and if purple , then purple case and purple shoes.
Her amplitude, stern expression, and high pompadour hair-style were really-really funny to some of the kids, others feared her a bit I think. Some of them could not always restrain themselves , and once in a while there was a hysterical titter or two.
But those small eyes were cold and gray and they immediately fixed on the culprit. She did not pretend that she had not heard, and those eyes said that she did not like liberties and you better beware...