Today, as promised, I will describe my own personal Hell with Mrs. Malone. As a result of an arrangement designed to ease overcrowding, you will recall that I ended up with Mrs. Malone for both second and third grade. I got off on the wrong foot right away. When Mrs. Malone passed out the basal readers, I read the whole book in the first day or two. This infuriated her, and from then on she took every opportunity to make me feel uncomfortable. She made fun of me for carrying a handbag, a possession of which I was particularly fond, to school She also made sure the other teachers knew it was inappropriate that I, a mere student, owned a red correcting pencil, a gift from my uncle. After all teachers had trouble getting them due to the war. For my part, and I can admit it now, I was a “Little Miss Know-it-all.”
Anyway, the situation came to a head one horrible day in third grade. Suddenly Mrs. Malone swooped down on me, pointed her finger in my face and yelled, “Dorothy are you chewing gum?” Quickly I swallowed the gum and said, “No!” Then the harangue began. “You most certainly were chewing gum. And now you are a liar! Do you know what happens to liars? They don’t go to Heaven. And you can’t even go and confess your sin, you poor child.”
Surprisingly I did not cry, but neither did I learn my lesson. When Mrs. Malone told me I’d be staying after school to consider my crime, I quickly said, “I can’t. I’m going somewhere with my mother.” With that my neighbor and supposed friend, piped up, “You are not. Your mother never goes anywhere.”
“Go sit in the hall, Dorothy,” ordered Mrs. Malone. “Obviously you are a born liar. If you keep on lying, you many even end up in jail. That’s what happens to liars.” Sitting in the hall was the most humiliating punishment possible as every student in the school passed by on errands or on the way to the lavatory. Some would ask why I was sitting there, some only point and laugh. For several days, kids talked about me at recess and on the way home.
After that it seemed I was sent to sit in the hall for any infraction: whispering, passing a note, laughing, once even the hiccups. When tearfully I complained to my mother she only made matters worse. “If you don’t behave, Mrs. Malone will probably keep you back.” This was the most awful prospect I could imagine: another year with that mean old biddy?
Somehow I did make it out of her clutches and into fourth grade. For the record, in my twenty-seven years of teaching I never once asked a kid, “Are you chewing gum?” Instead, I’d say, “ You have a deposit to make.” No one ever denied it.
© Dorothy C. Judd
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