June 09, 2010

Sing along Fridays and reading


Each year at school seemed to be worse than the one before and I hated it. That's about as simple as I can put it. Yet, there were bright spots..

Recently I read an article that someone wrote about a fifth grade teacher who's class I was in, Mrs. Faires. The article caused me to take a moment and think about the year I took English from her, or as we called it back then, reading...

Everyone liked her class because on Fridays she always had a big sing along. She would break out a little record player and a collection of 45's she had. I can remember listening to such things as Tom Dooley, Blowing in the wind, and The night they drove old Dixie down... Occasionally she would let people bring in records that we would listen to, I distinctly remember "Le Freak" by Le Chic being played far too many times for my taste... I usually sat around during the sing alongs, owing to a terminal case of shyness, and disdain for large groups of people.

That year three things happened that would change my life forever.

The first thing that happened was the shrine circus. That was the trip when I first heard the mother of all cuss words, the F bomb. We were standing in line waiting to buy useless trinkets from a group of shriners at a table. I had picked out a skeleton tied to a stick with a rubber band. When it came my turn to pay I handed the guy the five dollars my mother had given me for spending money. He was on old guy with greasy gray hair and a limp fez... He took the money, turned to his counterpart and said, "Another f'ing five dollar bill..." I wasn't sure what that meant at the time, but a marked increase in the usage of that word can be traced back to that precise moment, ushering in a period when cussing like a sailor became the norm in the lives of the core group of miscreants I spent time with. I still look upon that evening as walking through the gateway to a misspent youth.

The second thing that happened that year was Russell. He was transferred to Arnco Sargent Elementary after the school year began. We were broken up into groups for reading. They were listed as levels, I can't remember the actual level numbers, but Russell was far ahead of the class. Mrs. Faires made an executive decision. She took a few people from other groups and moved them into Russell's level. This list of achievers included myself, and a few other quiet students. The faith she placed in my abilities that day changed my school career from that point forward. I recall walking a bit taller that day, it was the first time I actually had something happen to me I could brag about to my parents (or even openly let them know about). I wanted to say thank you to her when we left school that day, but ten year old boys don't say such things to teachers, I mean come on.. They were the bane of our existence, except for the principal, they were the last people you actually wanted to converse with.

The third thing that occurred that school year was Mrs. Faires reading to us. I had a few books at the time, my coveted Tolkien set and a few others.... I was continually reading The Lord of the rings, but one day Mrs. Faires announced that she was going to read us a story about the Great Brain. She sat on her desk, pulled out a worn book and began to read. Thus began my journey to a small town in Utah. I can remember impatiently waiting all day until she would read to us, just so I could find out what happened to Tom and his brothers. I sat through those days lost in another world. This was new to me and I was amazed that anything could take the place of Middle Earth in my imagination. I began to realize that this is what reading was all about.... You could actually go on adventures with all sorts of people, not just hobbits.. The next time the book fair came through I asked my mother for a few bucks and picked up The Great Brain while walking through the big van in the parking lot. The picture above is the actual book I got that day, yes I still have it. I put in a standing order with my mother for our Scotts Bookstore trips for any and all of the Great Brain series, and over time I got them all.

I can close my eyes now and see Mrs. Faires sitting there, reading to us. I can hear her using different voices, seeming to actually become the people in Adenville. I sat on the edge of my seat, not being able to imagine what sort of shenanigans Tom would get into next. I spent many late nights after that sitting in my room with that small lamp hanging over the bed, flipping page after page, as I followed Tom all over the place through the series....

I have been asked many times down through the years what teachers influenced me the most. Mrs. Faires is the most given answer for two reasons.. She seemed to have faith in my abilities, and said no more about it, simply expecting me to perform at the level she set. That's the way I like it, "Here... do this and do your best because that's how it's done." The other reason I give her name is that she opened the door to an entire world of adventure for me.

I never mentioned anything to her about this when I was in her class, so I would like to take a moment and thank her...

Mrs. Faires, its thirty three years after the fact and I am sorry for the delay, but thank you for having a little faith in me in the fifth grade, and thank you for taking me on a trip to Tom & JD's house in Adenville... I will never forget that... it's one of the reasons I'm currently surrounded by stacks of well worn and beloved books..

And now, I think will crack open that book and revisit those kids and the magic water closet that doesn't stink... looks like I'm in for another long night...

4 comments:

Just me... said...

That was a wonderful tribute..
Wish I'd told the same to Miss Shiver.. Hope she knew.. :)

Gayle Faires said...

Oh, Clay, thank you so much!! What a wonderful tribute to your fifth grade teacher. You'll never know how much this means to me. I remember you and those days at Arnco Sargent so well. I think I'll get my book and become reaquainted with "the great brain"!!
Mrs. Faires

Eve said...

Oh, how sweet! I have similar feelings for certain influentials in my life, thanks for sharing.

esthermelvin said...

有用的才華若不用,便如同日晷儀放在陰暗之中......................................................