What Did I Do Wrong?


The 1960s-1964 Marie-Claire -hair styling

I saw on Facebook this morning that this is National Teacher‘s Day. I couldn’t help but go back in time to my third grade teacher.

Oh how I hated that teacher. She seemed to be on my case all year-long. Any time she could pick on poor little me, she did.

She was a short little lady with red hair. She always wore her hair in the same style all year.  I used to wonder if she slept like that, or did she ever wash it. It would be piled way up on her head in curls. It reminded me of an old woman’s hair style, something similar to an old-fashioned beehive.

Along with that red hair was more freckles than I could count on all ten fingers and toes. When I would get called up to the desk, I would stare at her soft, blue Mrs. Clause eyes so I wouldn’t be rude and get caught counting freckles.

I don’t believe I was Teacher’s Pet, although if I twisted my thoughts around, I may have been able to make up a good story about why I was called on so many times. She would tell my Mom at conference time that she moved me several times to get me to shut up.

Evidently it never worked as I heard the same repeat story each meeting teachers and parents met. One day I will never forget is when she must have been having a bad day. Maybe it was PMS or she and her husband had been in an argument the night before. It surely couldn’t have been from a sweet, blonde haired child like me that had made her flip her wig.

I got called up to the desk, a very familiar spot by this time of the year. I don’t remember her words exactly, but I do know thinking on my way up to her desk, I got busted again for talking.

You know, now that I am so much older I have to blame someone for this chatter box I had turned into. Since my Dad made me sit on chairs so often and not speak, I must have discovered my voice box in third grade. I probably was making up for lost voice time.

When I reached that last step and I was standing in front of the blue-eyed, freckled, beehive teacher, she said, What’s it going to take to get you to stop talking Terry? I am sure that I became instantly quiet as I flicked pieces of fuzz or dirt specks off of her desk.

Knowing me, I probably just shrugged my shoulders and said nothing. This teacher who either loved me or was sick of my chatter box did something she had never done the entire school year.

She pulled out a pair of panty hose. She had been so creative by cutting off the one leg. Now she had one long stocking. I think she has stuffed this remaining leg with wads of paper. It made a nice long tail.

She took that darn tail and a safety-pin and made me turn around. She pinned that ugly old thing to the back of my shirt and then she had the audacity to make me wear this all day long.

I can remember the other kids pointing at me and laughing and calling me Tattle Tail the rest of the day. Oh I hated her. I was so embarrassed. No one likes to be chosen as the bad kid or the kid who wouldn’t shut up.

I laugh out loud as I think now to the patience that woman must have had. She could look at me sitting in my chair with those eyes and smile at me, but I could almost see her gritting her teeth because I was the labeled one, the kid who interrupted the class.

When I graduated from high school one day my friends and I were revisiting school years and I brought up the story of my third grade teacher. You know, kids want boundaries. They really do yearn to be guided and disciplined. It is one way the younger generation can count on of being cared about.

I never got it back then, but I will say it over and over that the blue-eyed, red-headed, beehive teacher was my favorite, and I learned the most in her class intellectually. One day my Mom and I were together going somewhere and I pointed out this beautiful plantation style home with the perfectly manicured yard and my Mom told me, That is Mrs. Kehlor’s home, your third grade teacher?

Wow I got a small bit of redness creeping up in my cheeks as I thought back to the days of torment I put her through. Not only was she a great teacher, she had perfect taste in homes too. Years later when I read of her passing, I thought back to the tail I had worn and with tears in my eyes I said to myself, Thank-you Mrs. Kehlor. Thank-you for putting up with me and being the best darn teacher I ever had.

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18 thoughts on “What Did I Do Wrong?

  1. More often we misunderstood a disciplinarian for hater. But it’s all about generation gap. Now that we are in their shoes, we might have done the same thing in our desire to impart knowledge in the most efficient manner possible. We may have a different way of doing it though. Now, we understand that disciplining is not hating but rather – loving. It takes a little more maturity to understand this.

  2. Very enjoyable storytelling. I do think that teachers don’t have to resort to public humiliation in dealing with a problem, Terry, and I’m sorry you had to endure that. You seem to have a really great attitude.

  3. What a terrible thing to do – that is abuse and humiliation. I can’t remember that we was punished in anyway during my school time – we had really great respect for all our teachers. I was punished once for wearing scary make up – my teacher Mr Larsson held my head under the water tap in the school room hand basin … I never did again. There is nothing to accept or understand about your teacher’s behavior. Should never happened.

    • you wore scary make-up? I can’t help but laugh a little. it doesn’t sound like anything my Vivi would ever do.Today if that happened to me with the tail, a law suit would probably be filed

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