Monday, January 5, 2009

Room 100

I grew up in a small Indiana town where everyone pretty much knows everyone else or you went to school with their brother or sister, etc. I was known not for being me so much but for being the policeman's daughter, the girl with the sick mother, the sister of the basketball star, or being the sister of the town's antique collector/historian. My dream in life was to move away where no one knew me and just start over. I got that wish and it isn't so great.

Lately I have found myself thinking more about my past and why I am the way that I am. I was talking to my oldest brother last night on the telephone and we were reminiscing about a teacher that I had and that my mother had also had in high school. Miss Garn was known far and wide around the town. Everyone had a story about their time in Room 100 with Miss Garn. She had such a reputation. She probably didn't stand more than 4 feet 10 inches I imagine. She didn't need size to strike fear in the hearts of her World History students. I don't think her teaching methods were actually good or fair. But she did teach me things that no one else ever did. She required us to buy ink eradicator and cartridge pens. I don't think I have used an ink cartridge since. On test day she required the "written work" to be handed in to her and she checked our work while we crammed one more minute for some little known fact that just might be on the test. Then this teacher would call a list of names of students that had made some error on the "written work". They scrambled to the front of the classroom to retrieve the sheets of paper that needed to be corrected before they could start their exam.

Calmly Miss Garn would start the oral exam. "Number one", she would say and our hearts sank and we started the test. She had hundreds of possible test questions so you couldn't possible tell the next class what questions might be on their test. Meanwhile the poor people that were trying to correct their work were missing the test questions. One by one they ran to her desk and she would either approve or disapprove of their efforts. Talk about stress!!!

Well, I was so terrified of this tiny lady that I got straight A's in her class. I remember my mother telling me stories of her time with Miss Garn and she still remembered each detail of
how she was taking a test and didn't even know that her book was open and Miss Garn walked past and loudly snapped the book closed and my mother gasped in horror and tried to explain that she didn't know and by then the tiny teacher had just continued to make her rounds around the classroom and never looked back at my horrified mother.

Well, time passed and Miss Garn retired and there was a big article in the hometown paper and everyone again talked about what it was like in Room 100. My brother was in her class too (for one day). He was too scared to try to make it through her class and transferred out immediately. He went on to graduate from Indiana University and received his Masters and PhD from University of Michigan in Art History. Miss Garn was so proud that he "was one of her former students" that she often referred to him in class. He never told her that he wasn't and they remained friends until she died. She left him $500 in her will and never knew that he was not her student.

I learned that Alexander the Great's horse was named Bucephalis and Frederick Barbarosa's beard was red. I think his favorite food was sauerkraut or maybe that was Charlemagne's favorite food? And I will always remember the little lady that ruled Room 100.


Andrea said...

I love this post...your words create such a vivid image for me! :)

Jeanne said...

We had a similar teacher at my high school, Dr. Burkhardt. (Yeah, a PhD teaching high school English.) She retired between my freshman and sophomore years, so I never got to be in one of her classes, but I remember running into her in the girl's bathroom once. She asked me a question that clearly indicated she had me mixed up with another student. I explained her mistake and she said, "Oh, I thought that you were she."

I had NEVER heard anyone say that sentence in a grammatically correct way before. I instantly fell in love with her, and resolved to speak only grammatical sentences in future. (And if you wed that to my Shakespeare fixation, you can just imagine what a gem I was in high school.)

What A Card said...

Wow, I grew up in a small town like that, too, and I also "escaped".

That's really funny about your brother :)

mielikki said...

I both love and hate that I grew up in a tiny town of 500, for the sme kind of reasons. My 8th grade homeroom teacher was a lot like your teacher...

Jan said...

I just remembered the only fact that my mother said she learned from having Miss Garn. She told me that the fall of Ninevah was in 606. Now was that A.D. or B.C?