we could string them and hang them from a tree

Found this post in my dregs/draft list. I have no idea who or what I was going to string and hang from a tree last December when I started it. Still the title is fitting for this day which was both the last day of class before Spring Break AND school picture day. Yup, individual, staff, and class photos with a whole lotta saying "cheese" and trying to get little kids to remove their index fingers from their nostrils for just a couple seconds.

Any week requiring verbal reminders that paper towels must not be put in the toilet isn't going to merit a twinkly star.  A twinkly star was as good as it got at Eastridge Elementary. The reward and incentive budget was very low and counter to the education philosophy of our principal, Miss Baker.  A student's paper might merit a check, a plus, a star, or a twinkly star from the teacher.

I would have done absolutely anything so Mrs. Erickson or Mrs. Meier could draw pencil "twinkly star" on my first and second grade papers.  Color inside the lines.  Put on my own overshoes.  Solve arithmetic problems on the blackboard in front of the whole class. Rat out Bobby Tooley for some infraction. Erase blackboards. Play Red Rover and run right on over into Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers.  Anything for those two teachers' approval! Most of all I wanted their smiles and attention while they drew that star.

I took piano lessons from a long-suffering neighborhood woman we called "Mrs. Bath Oil". That poor woman received $1.25 for spending a half hour with me, tapping the beat on the keys with her personalized pencils (ANNA MARY BATHEL Instuctor of Piano and Organ), listening to my dismal efforts, and putting lick-on stickers and stars in my music and theory books.  Geez, what a person had to do for $1.25 in the late Sixties!

Tears would run down my cheeks the whole thirty minutes. "I am afraid your daughter does not care for the piano," Mrs. Bath Oil told my mother over the phone after a couple years of our mutual suffering.

Mom didn't give me the option of quitting piano lessons, but we did eventually figure out that my watering, red eyes during lessons were caused by the combination of Mrs. Bath Oil's hairspray, perfume, cigarette smoke, and houseful of cats. Her tears were due to my lack of any progress whatsoever at the keyboard.

This all has to do with stickers and incentives. If Mrs. Bath Oil and I both managed to get through my playing of a song in the Schaum Piano Book she put a sticker on that page. Should I play most of the notes of a piece in the Thompson Piano Book I got a foil star, usually silver. More gifted students merited the gold, blue, red, and green stars.

No promise of a sticker or star could ever make me remotely musical. I just did my time, practicing thirty minutes every morning before school because doing so was not optional.

If my smallest students settle down and fall asleep within half an hour I give them a sticker when they wake up.  If they don't, I don't. Lab rats have to at least press the lever to get the M&Ms.

The other Nap Lady gives every student two or three stickers after naptime just for being their own itty-bitty selves whether they settled down or not.  Her philosophy is, "When you grow up there are lots of things you want but don't get, so you should always get stickers when you are young." I lean toward the life is not a bowl of cherries so the tough get going and learn to not swallow the pits, and you might as well figure that out earlier rather than later.

You don't get the tiara for just showing up, and you have to eat the cereal to find the decoder ring. Oooh!  Life is so demanding!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Kim said...

I remember Lara Thomas suffering through my piano lessons in the Schuam books. I didn't get a sticker until I got it right. I would get so frustrated if I had to practice a piece again the next week! At school I was willing to eat cooked carrots to get a Mrs. Stewart "carrot kiss" on my cheek. She would put on red lipstick so the evidence would last through the afternoon! I'm sure she would be fired for such things now.

Kim said...

ps - when i read the title of your post I thought it would be about the GOP candidates!

Collagemama said...

Well, Kim, it sure could have been about the candidates when I started. It might have been the old peanut butter on pine cones bird-feeder project, too.

In the only piano book I saved there are usually four dates written in Mrs. Bath Oil's backhand. One piece I appear to have ground along on for six months to get that darn foil star.


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