Posted tagged ‘paddling’

Sixth Grade Apology Letters

March 20, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         March 20, 2018

                                  

They walked into the classroom, three boys looking like they were headed to the gallows. Their math teacher led the procession of the condemned, faces downcast inspecting the carpet design. One of the three had visible body tremors.

They had committed the unforgivable sixth grade math class sin; they had detoured off the road of the teacher’s behavioral requirements for a substitute teacher and done some off-road free wheelin’ stupid stuff. Warnings, changing seats, and more warnings had not brought them back to the right path and so my end of the day written report to the teacher included their three names.

Now they stood before me. They had already been sentenced to make the trip to the seventh grade classroom I was guest teaching in that day. Their punishment, handed down to them by their six foot four inch teacher, was to write apology letters to the afflicted party…me!…come to my classroom, read them, hand them to me, and shake my hand.

They tried their best to be sincere, but how sincere can sixth grade boys be about never, ever, ever straying from what they know is appropriate. Sincerity is a momentary commitment that gets forgotten as easily as the jackets and water bottles left behind as they hurry out of a classroom. “Staying focused” is a higher learning skill safely untouched by the male members of this class.

“Mr. Wolfe, I am sorry for making inappropriate noises during your class. I am very sorry for causing the whole class to be distracted…Next time you substitute in my class I will listen at my best!”

I controlled the chuckling that was bubbling up inside me. The forlorn looks would surely be replaced with sighs of relief within thirty seconds of leaving my classroom.

I remember being in sixth grade! I had so much energy, or as we said “ants in my pants”, that I couldn’t sit still. School was hard, recess was easy! My teacher, however, was Mr. Cooper, an imposing giant of a man who was not hesitant about using a paddle on your behind. Witnessing a couple of classroom criminals receiving their judgments early in the school year caused most of us to quiver in our seats. And…except for music and physical education, Mr. Cooper taught ALL of my classes! He was the shepherd of our class herd for the whole school day…everyday! The fact that his younger brother was a classmate of my older brother at Williamstown High School did not buy me an ounce of grace. I learned out of fear that whole year.

A couple of days after the three “wiser” boys came to me I passed one of them in the hallway. He saw me coming and instantly started inspecting the hallway tile he was about to step on.

“Good morning!” I greeted him, also using his first name.

He looked up, a bit startled. “Good morning, Mr. Wolfe!”

It was a moment of grace in a school hallway, a peace offering towards one who had already made restitution. Perhaps…just perhaps, he will realize that he has not been judged and labeled for life, but rather understands that he is seen as valued regardless of his slip-ups.

After all, he is still in sixth grade!

Doing Dumb, Meeting Grace

July 27, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                             July 27, 2015

                                          

When I was in fourth grade I had a friend named Terry who was a bit rougher around the edges then me. Terry even would let a cuss word flow from his lips from time to time. He would walk the line between what was acceptable behavior and what was reform school acts.

And I hung around with him!

In some odd way I thought it made me took tougher. “Don’t mess with me! Do you see who I’m hanging around with?”

And so it was on a nice spring day at the close of school. Terry and I were leaving Williamstown Elementary to head home and we noticed thee was a kickball game going on at the school playground. We loved kickball, so we stopped and joined in the game. There is nothing better for a fourth grader than kickball after school…unsupervised!

We’d been playing a while when Terry kicked the ball to the outfield, but a player on the other team made a nice catch for an out. Terry let loose with an expletive!

Unfortunately, one of the fifth grade teachers, a beautiful lady named Mrs. Davidson, was walking by when the four letter word entered our world and she stopped and in a very nice way told him not to use language like that again.

“Yes, ma’am!”

End of story!

No!

My fourth grade bravado raised its ugly head, and with pumped-out chest I did dumb! I yelled down the sidewalk at Mrs. Davidson as she strolled away from school. “What are you going to to about it, you old bag?”

Don’t ask me why I chose that moment to be a tough guy, but I can still see Mrs. Davidson doing a sharp U-turn and heading back towards a fourth grader who was now completely void of bravado. I was trying to hit the rewind button on my mouth to no avail. The condemned prisoner was about to be executed.

Her words were direct and clearly communicated. “Let’s go see Mr. Morton!”

Not Mr. Morton! Mr. Morton was our school principal. His first name was Shirley, which, I believed, caused him to approach students in a gruffer way. He is the only male I have ever known who was named Shirley, and it is a name that still strikes fear in me. Mr. Morton had snow white hair, was short and thick and carried a big paddle.

Mrs. Davidson escorted the two of us, Terry and me…the condemned about to die, to the principal’s office. Mr. Morton warmed our behinds quickly. It was “bun warming” redefined!

Terry and I walked funny all the way home. It took a good bit of acting on my part, but I never let on with my mom and dad that my backside was a bit sensitive to sit on at dinner time.

“How was school today?”

      “Great…awesome! I got a 100% on my spelling test!”

     I had done dumb and dumbness has a way of rippling through you for a while afterwards. I got a glass of water with ice a bit later, went in the bathroom and tried to cool my behind with the ice cubes. It didn’t work! I slept on my stomach that night. Never again did I call one of my teachers an old bag.

Two weeks later on a Sunday morning I had my junior usher suit on at First Baptist Church of Williamstown. I was on duty, ready to hand out bulletins and help collect the offering. I was looking like a nice Christian fourth grade boy who was serving Jesus.

And then Mrs. Davidson walked in with her husband, who was the high school wrestling coach. My Cheerios started to rise from my stomach. I turned as red as a beet! And Mrs. Davidson looked at me and with a smile on her face said “Good morning!”

With a squeaky high voice I responded “Good morning!”, handed a bulletin to her.

“Thank you!” She smiled at me in a forgiving way. My eyes spoke repentance, and I met was introduced to grace.

The Davidson’s became a part of our church, but never once did she mention my transgression. Grace moved us past it…and I will always be thankful!