What I Knew About My Elementary School Teachers

 

Recently I saw a Tweet from a kindergarten teacher that was quite concerned about the law in Florida to limit sharing of information about sexuality with children in kindergarten through the third grade.  He was quite upset that he wouldn’t be able to tell his students that he had gone paddleboarding with his partner over the weekend. Can you imagine those poor tots going without such important information about aquatic sports?

It got me thinking about what I knew about the sex lives of my teachers in those years at Mark West Elementary.  In kindergarten, my teacher was Mrs. West who always made sure we brought our beach towels to lay down on for nap time. Though I didn’t think about it at the time, her title, “Mrs.” indicates she was married. Or had been married. She might have been divorced or widowed and I would have never known because to my recollection, she never talked about her husband. These same things would be true about my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Rudenal, the woman who made me sit outside the classroom when I talked too much.  And “Mrs.” was all I knew about the love life of Mrs. Clarke, even though she taught me in the 2nd and 3rd grade.

I don’t recall having any interest in their married lives, let alone whether they cruised the local bars while their husbands were out of town. I do know that in such sad, unenlightened times, they had married men. (The options back then were so limited.)

As for my principal for those years, Mr. O’Malley, I don’t even know whether or not he was married!

And yet, amazingly, I still learned to read, write, and do simple arithmetic.

And brace yourself… I’m pretty darn sure I had not the slightest interest in the personal lives of my teachers. How far our educational system has progressed!

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  1. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    My fifth grade teacher left a big impact on me. She spoke of her college-aged children when she read aloud The Lord of the Rings to us. They had brought the books home from college and insisted she read them.

    I had two gay teachers in high school (1972 -1976). I had no idea they were gay (and partners) until I heard at a reunion in the 80s that they had died of AIDS.

    • #1
  2. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Good post Eustace.  Catholic schools but did not graduate from the civilian female teachers to nuns until the fourth grade.  Pretty, and married, teachers the in early years. Did not give it much thought.  Back in the 50’s doubt they were scouting for 7 year old boys. 

    • #2
  3. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Eustace C. Scrubb: Recently I saw a Tweet from a kindergarten teacher that was quite concerned about the law in Florida to limit sharing of information about sexuality with children in kindergarten through the third grade.  He was quite upset that he wouldn’t be able to tell his students that he had gone paddleboarding with his partner over the weekend. Can you imagine those poor tots going without such important information about aquatic sports?

    Depends on what kind of “aquatic sports” a same-sex “couple” might be engaged in…

    • #3
  4. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    It’s almostttttt like this guy is more concerned about himself than he is about his students. 

    • #4
  5. American Abroad Thatcher
    American Abroad
    @AmericanAbroad

    It’s almost as if elementary school teachers who object to this bill have some other agenda than educating children.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Fascinating! I don’t remember wondering or caring whether my teachers were married or not! I never heard about their spouses, men or women. I just so loved their dedication to teaching and to my learning. Good post, Eustace!

    • #6
  7. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    I thought the same thing when I saw the clip of that guy whining. My kindergarten teacher was a Mrs. so I assume she was married. I don’t know anything about her husband or even if she had kids. She talked about the alphabet, colors, etc., but not too much personal life and definitely nothing sexual. My first grade teacher was a Miss, so she was single. Did she date? No idea, who would share that with 6 year olds?

    • #7
  8. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    I remember very little of any of my elementary school teachers. When my children were in elementary school, they had female teachers who were “Miss” and some who were “Mrs.” Occasionally one of the “Mrs.” would mention one or more of her children who were themselves adults at the time. But the only teacher who talked much about his outside life (yes, “his”) was a first grade teacher who had a summer job as a wild-land fire fighter, and had stories about fire fighting that kept the kids engaged. He also loved to stick into the vocabulary list some odd words that were beyond normal first grade words, like “camouflage” just so the kids could impress their parents and their friends. But beyond his firefighting, the kids knew nothing of what else he might be doing outside class.

    Most small children don’t think about whether their teachers have lives outside the classroom, and so are unlikely to bring the topic up. Many of them probably think the teacher lives in the classroom, and that the teacher thinks of nothing other than her students. 

     

    • #8
  9. Michael Brehm Coolidge
    Michael Brehm
    @MichaelBrehm

    I had a elementary school teacher who showed us his vacation slides on multiple occasions. I suppose it was tangentially educational because he occasionally had slides of excursions to Mayan Ruins or Polynesian culture museums, etc. but it was pretty much slide after slide of him in a Hawaiian Shirt with his wife on the Lido Deck. Utterly baffling in retrospect.

    • #9
  10. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I had a pretty female teacher in grade school and we kids knew that she and our male math teacher liked each other, so that told us they were not married.  I don’t remember when we learned about sex education in what grade, but it was part of gym class, hygiene and it was later, not kindergarten through third grade.  There was never any confusion about sex or even talked about. We just wanted to know when recess was so we could kick a ball or head to the swings. We had so many different ethnic backgrounds represented that race wasn’t ever considered, nor was gender. We were just all kids – boys and girls and acted like it. 

    • #10
  11. Terri Mauro Coolidge
    Terri Mauro
    @TerriMauro

    Don’t think I knew anything about my elementary school teachers’ lives unless my mom knew them from church or around town. In junior high, there were two female teachers who were rumored to be a couple, but they sure weren’t the ones talking about it. In high school, I think there maybe was some chatter about spouses and kids, but only by the “cool” teachers. 

    That was back in the ’60s and ’70s. My daughter, going to school in the ’90s and ’00s, picked up more info, I think, maybe because there were teachers on maternity leave and married-couple teachers in various of her schools. 

    I wonder if today, with teachers being on social media and maybe interacting with students or parents there, the lines are fainter between professional and personal life. Yet another reason I’m glad not to have kids in school right now.

    • #11
  12. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    I had a pretty female teacher in grade school and we kids knew that she and our male math teacher liked each other, so that told us they were not married. I don’t remember when we learned about sex education in what grade, but it was part of gym class, hygiene and it was later, not kindergarten through third grade. There was never any confusion about sex or even talked about. We just wanted to know when recess was so we could kick a ball or head to the swings. We had so many different ethnic backgrounds represented that race wasn’t ever considered, nor was gender. We were just all kids – boys and girls and acted like it.

    Exactly. Exactly exactly exactly.

    What in the hell is going on at our schools? What have we done here?

     

    • #12
  13. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    I must be in a really weird place. I don’t even recall knowing or even thinking about anything about my teachers’ personal lives. Of course, I am really bad about remembering stand-alone details although I do better in situations where facts build on each other, it’s just easier when it is meaningful. 

    • #13
  14. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Sorry. This post has got me so angry I am stomping around my kitchen shouting out loud to myself.

    I wish this post and every comment so far could be read to a faculty of small school; I would be very interested in their comments afterward. I would love to hear them describe just what exactly they think their job is.

    Maybe then we would know the extent to which we have to tear public schooling down and begin again.

    • #14
  15. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    School systems and neighborhoods have life cycles. Where you were in those cycles depends on how much of a dose you got of private life drama from your teachers.

    During my elementary school years, my school was on the menopausal side. Every one of my teachers seemed to be somewhere between 65 and death, but probably just more like 45+. I knew a lot about my 3rd Grade teacher because she was also my neighbor, living just four doors down from my parents’ house. (God, what a nightmare for a kid.) My 6th Grade teacher could have been a lesbian. She was a real Bea Arthur type, never married and 6’2″. All of us boys were intimidated by her mere physical presence so we weren’t terribly worried (or surprised) that she didn’t seem to have a husband.

    My kids, on the other hand, were on the beginning of the cycle. My daughter had two 1st grade teachers because the first one had a baby over Christmas break and never came back that school year. My sons had a procession of young (and often hot looking) teachers. We used to kid the youngest that he was some sort of fertility god because, starting in Kindergarten, every other year until his sophomore year in high school one of his teachers was pregnant. He now has 6 weeks left in public schools and boy, will I be glad to put that in the rear view mirror.

     

    • #15
  16. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    EJHill (View Comment):
    School systems and neighborhoods have life cycles. Where you were in those cycles depends on how much of a dose you got of private life drama from your teachers.

    During my elementary school years, my school was on the menopausal side. Every one of my teachers seemed to be somewhere between 65 and death, but probably just more like 45+. I knew a lot about my 3rd Grade teacher because she was also my neighbor, living just four doors down from my parents’ house. (God, what a nightmare for a kid.) My 6th Grade teacher could have been a lesbian. She was a real Bea Arthur type, never married and 6’2″. All of us boys were intimidated by her mere physical presence so we weren’t terribly worried (or surprised) that she didn’t seem to have a husband.

    My kids, on the other hand, were on the beginning of the cycle. My daughter had two 1st grade teachers because the first one had a baby over Christmas break and never came back that school year. My sons had a procession of young (and often hot looking) teachers. We used to kid the youngest that he was some sort of fertility god because, starting in Kindergarten, every other year until his sophomore year in high school one of his teachers was pregnant. He now has 6 weeks left in public schools and boy, will I be glad to put that in the rear view mirror.

     

    This is a great comment, thanks. You have calmed me down a bit. There is wisdom in what you say.

    Still, knowing personal things about your teachers through propinquity is very different from having teachers who feel a compulsion to discuss personal details of their lives with young children in their charge.

    Especially when:

    They openly and unselfconsciously refer to those students as “my kids”.

    They agree that there are things they like to discuss with their students that they admonish said students not to tell their parents about.

    This goes from being sociable to being creepy.

    • #16
  17. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    I just posted this in the PIT earlier today as part of a similar conversation:

    The complete list of Personal facts I can recall about any of my grade school/junior high/senior high teachers:

    Mrs Draney had a baby when I was in 3rd grade.

    7th grade French Teacher Mademoiselle Noot got engaged to  science teacher Mr Risch late in the school year  [My sister said she did it just so she could change her name).  They were married that summer and she was Madame Risch for 8th grade French.

    9th Grade History:  Mr. Ptazk’s first name was Joe, and he lived a few blocks from my grandmother – I know this because he was running for alderman in her district.  I don’t recall if he won or not.

    Brit Lit teacher Mrs Schutz was slightly nuts.  She was widowed, and had a bust of Shakespeare that she’d dress up for holidays.

    Ms McCain (Advanced Comp/American Lit) was married to one of the shop teachers, and was rumored to have appeared in Playboy, hence the nickname (not to her face) of “Bunny”.

    Band Director Mr [I can’t even remember his name for sure – Gilbert?] in 7th grade was said to own a bar somewhere in Northern Wisconsin named “Buddy’s”, where he spent his summers.

    7th grade – Mrs Klappenbach got divorced shortly before the end of the year and went back to her maiden name of Bush.  When I was flying back to college after spring break of my freshman year, she was working the check-in counter for the airline.

    That’s pretty much it.

     

    • #17
  18. DrewInWisconsin, Oik! Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik!
    @DrewInWisconsin

    I didn’t know much about most of my elementary school teachers. One was Miss _________ one year and Mrs. ________ the next year, and a lot of kids forgot and kept calling her by her unmarried name.

    Mrs. Brown was a crotchety old lady who scared us. Same with Mrs. Mussoff who was probably a Russian agent.

    Our 6th grade teacher was rather effeminate, but I don’t think any of us suspected he was gay (we barely even knew what that was), we just didn’t like him because he was kind of a jerk. He did get married — to a woman — but I have learned within the last year that he now has a male partner. (Whether “married” or not, I just don’t know.)

    But yeah, we didn’t know about their personal lives, and we really didn’t care.

    • #18
  19. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    My 5th grade teacher was very young and pretty and all us boys had a crush on her; then she betrayed us all by getting married and changing from Miss Healey to Mrs. Something-or-other.

    In 7th grade, we started French with a new teacher, a dynamo of a petite Frenchwoman named Miss Mousseau. Suddenly, dads started showing up on parents’ nights.

    That is far as my recall of the [ahem] non-academic side of my early education extends.

    • #19
  20. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Fritz (View Comment):

    My 5th grade teacher was very young and pretty and all us boys had a crush on her; then she betrayed us all by getting married and changing from Miss Healey to Mrs. Something-or-other.

    In 7th grade, we started French with a new teacher, a dynamo of a petite Frenchwoman named Miss Mousseau. Suddenly, dads started showing up on parents’ nights.

    That is far as my recall of the [ahem] non-academic side of my early education extends.

    Miss Schwanebeck was my teacher from 5th-7th grade in our  rural, two-room school in Nebraska.  I might have guessed it was just 5th-6th grades, but my brother, two grades behind me, remembers that the boys were disappointed and jealous when it turned out that she had a boyfriend who came to drive her home a couple of times. She had long, dark hair and there there is no doubt that she was a fine looking young woman.  And if my brother had her as a teacher, that would have to have been when I was in 7th grade.  I do remember the early 50s black Ford that she usually drove without the help of any boyfriend, and the time she whispered in my ear, asking very nicely if I would quit supplying arms to the rest of the boys. (They were rubber-band guns that I cut out of peach-crate end pieces using my father’s scroll saw.)  She then got married and I had Mrs Koenig as my 8th grade teacher.

     

    • #20
  21. Roberto, [This space available for advertising] Member
    Roberto, [This space available for advertising]
    @Roberto

    Michael Brehm (View Comment):

    I had a elementary school teacher who showed us his vacation slides on multiple occasions. I suppose it was tangentially educational because he occasionally had slides of excursions to Mayan Ruins or Polynesian culture museums, etc. but it was pretty much slide after slide of him in a Hawaiian Shirt with his wife on the Lido Deck. Utterly baffling in retrospect.

    Reminds me of a few teachers I had who some days just felt like phoning it in so in comes the VCR and an hour of Victory at Sea or The Blue Max. I suppose that almost counts as educational.

    • #21
  22. DrewInWisconsin, Oik! Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik!
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Roberto, [This space available… (View Comment):

    Michael Brehm (View Comment):

    I had a elementary school teacher who showed us his vacation slides on multiple occasions. I suppose it was tangentially educational because he occasionally had slides of excursions to Mayan Ruins or Polynesian culture museums, etc. but it was pretty much slide after slide of him in a Hawaiian Shirt with his wife on the Lido Deck. Utterly baffling in retrospect.

    Reminds me of a few teachers I had who some days just felt like phoning it in so in comes the VCR and an hour of Victory at Sea or The Blue Max. I suppose that almost counts as educational.

    It’s certainly an improvement over what they get fed today. (Gender politics and environmental garbage.)

    • #22
  23. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Fritz (View Comment):

    My 5th grade teacher was very young and pretty and all us boys had a crush on her; then she betrayed us all by getting married and changing from Miss Healey to Mrs. Something-or-other.

    In 7th grade, we started French with a new teacher, a dynamo of a petite Frenchwoman named Miss Mousseau. Suddenly, dads started showing up on parents’ nights.

    That is far as my recall of the [ahem] non-academic side of my early education extends.

    Both of my kids had Mrs Daniels for their third grade teacher.  She was very easy on the eyes.  I made it a point to always stop and say hi when in the building for concerts and other activities.

     

    • #23
  24. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    American Abroad (View Comment):

    It’s almost as if elementary school teachers who object to this bill have some other agenda than educating children.

    That’s been my thought since this “controversy” arose. Why are these people objecting to having teachers focus upon the curricula instead of their personal lives. The Leftist old motto: “It’s for the children” is getting a little worn.

    • #24
  25. Michael Brehm Coolidge
    Michael Brehm
    @MichaelBrehm

    Roberto, [This space available… (View Comment):

    Michael Brehm (View Comment):

    I had a elementary school teacher who showed us his vacation slides on multiple occasions. I suppose it was tangentially educational because he occasionally had slides of excursions to Mayan Ruins or Polynesian culture museums, etc. but it was pretty much slide after slide of him in a Hawaiian Shirt with his wife on the Lido Deck. Utterly baffling in retrospect.

    Reminds me of a few teachers I had who some days just felt like phoning it in so in comes the VCR and an hour of Victory at Sea or The Blue Max. I suppose that almost counts as educational.

    He also did that too, only it was episodes of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot he taped off of PBS.

    • #25
  26. Tedley Member
    Tedley
    @Tedley

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    I must be in a really weird place. I don’t even recall knowing or even thinking about anything about my teachers’ personal lives. Of course, I am really bad about remembering stand-alone details although I do better in situations where facts build on each other, it’s just easier when it is meaningful.

    I’m with you on this. 

    • #26
  27. Ray Gunner Coolidge
    Ray Gunner
    @RayGunner

    Eustace C. Scrubb: He was quite upset that he wouldn’t be able to tell his students that he had gone paddleboarding with his partner over the weekend.

    Agreed that teachers should not be talking to their students about their private lives, but here is what drives me crazy about this ridiculous issue.  Nothing in this law prohibits teachers from telling their students about their private lives.  

    Here is the key part of the law that everyone’s freaking out over:

    3. Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

    That’s it.  This law puts off “classroom instruction” on sexual orientation and/or sexual identity until the fourth grade (still too early IMO).  And for fourth grade any beyond, classroom instruction on sexual orientation and/or sexual identity must be age appropriate.  Shocking, ain’t it? 

    Nothing in this law prevents teachers from telling their students they are gay or straight or married or single or paddleboarders or whatever they want.   This weepy sob story that this law means  I-can’t-tell-my-students-about-my-partner has no basis in reality.  

    • #27
  28. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    DrewInWisconsin, Oik! (View Comment):

    I didn’t know much about most of my elementary school teachers. One was Miss _________ one year and Mrs. ________ the next year, and a lot of kids forgot and kept calling her by her unmarried name.

     

    There was a teacher at my kids’ elementary school (my kids didn’t have her personally though) who had some ‘splainin to do when she became pregnant. Although she had gotten married, she stayed “Miss ____” because everyone at school  had known her as Miss _____, and so she thought it’d be easier to stay Miss _____. Indicates also that her extracurricular life was not a subject of classroom lessons. When she got pregnant, she did explain to parents that she had gotten married a year or so earlier. 

    • #28
  29. DrewInWisconsin, Oik! Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik!
    @DrewInWisconsin

    “Paddleboarding” is a euphemism for something, isn’t it.

    • #29
  30. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    DrewInWisconsin, Oik! (View Comment):

    “Paddleboarding” is a euphemism for something, isn’t it.

    I thought only “aquatic sports” was the euphemism.

    • #30
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