Friday, July 6, 2012

My English Teacher in the 7th Grade, Miss Beatty

She was NOT one of my favorite teachers ever and when I had her for 7th grade English I was miserable.  So to fight my angst and misery, my mission; to make her miserable as well.  Of course you all haven't a clue to whom I am referring to but the "she" was Miss Carolyn Beatty.  This morning while preparing breakfast I looked at yesterdays paper and there she was.  Her picture and a concise and well-crafted obit.  Carolyn Beatty was 70 years old.  It is difficult even today to write out her first name alongside Beatty and maybe others had difficulties doing that as well because in her obit she is referred to as Miss Beatty.  She must have been in her first few years of teaching when I had her way back in the day but from the sounds of guest book entry's, her tough style is a staple that she developed long before teaching me and that style held true until she retired.  Miss Beatty was tough and usually fair.  Last year in the process of moving and sifting through boxes I found 'papers' I had written for 7th grade English.  Most of the papers were marked in red ink with a C but there were a scant few marked with B and the encouragement written in perfect penmanship, "I know you are capable of producing these types of grades on a more consistent basis.  Maybe you should try for an A if you're brave enough."  Truthfully, I was happy with C's.  There is much more fun in life than footnoted research papers and topical papers complete with correct punctuation and grammar.  Oh and my penmanship left much to be desired.  Miss Beatty had a rather well developed sarcastic sense of humor that she used quite liberally in the classroom.  You hadn't experienced 7th grade English until you became an object of sarcasm and cutting remarks in her classroom.  In my 7th grade mind I believed teachers were rich because Miss Beatty traveled overseas during her summer vacation.  She could write a much more interesting paper on summer vacations than most of her students who were trying to form the right sentences and paragraphs to creatively write about another boring summer going to Parker Pee Pool and the like.  Other than being a so so student, who was outwardly acting bored but internally excited about words and literature, I had my secret weapon that amused my classmates and me but made Miss Beatty miserable.  (As an adult looking back I don't think I made her miserable more like annoyed)   Miss Beatty was a rather overweight woman and since it was the 60's and this fact has nothing to do with anything, but she had that perfectly once a week to the beauty parlor, high to the sky teased and heavily sprayed hair.  A skill I developed in 7th grade was the good old fashioned hand fart.  Yea, I was such a little lady.  Anyway, this boy in my class and I, who must have been alphabetically close to my name since that is how we were seated, could do dueling hand farts really well and almost ventriloquist like.  Any time Miss Beatty moved or bent over, we would time the fake noise to her movements.  We never got caught because we both had the ability to cause a ruckus and never look suspicious as the ones creating the noise.  There was another boy in class who was punished each and every time.  Don't be too concerned about the unjust punishment, I more than made up for that sin in Home Ec.  I was the fall person for anything mischievous, that I may or may not have had anything to do with. 

This morning I decided to leave a comment on the guestbook of condolences.  I struggled writing those very few sentences as if Miss Beatty would actually be reading it.  Although Miss Beatty never knew or probably didn't really care that her class had affected me, in a good way.  That underneath that apathy was a girl intrigued by words and who couldn't get enough books to read. She influenced, shaped and laid a foundation to build upon in latter years.   Punctuation and grammar, not that big of a fan.  Correct spelling, let's just say I am VERY thankful for spell check. 

I looked through a slide show of her life on the website.  She stayed at Johnston Junior High now known as a middle school for 32 years.  The pictures showed her in different locals all over the world.  A newspaper article on her musical ability and promise as a child is in the collection of pictures. There were pictures with friends, pictures with pets and a few pictures of Miss Beatty with an older, unhappy looking woman.  That woman was probably her mother and it looks like maybe her mother had lived with her for a while.  Maybe I understand Miss Beatty better after looking through the pictures. 

Miss Beatty was tough, hard, and passionate in her teaching.  English teachers came and went in the years of junior high and high school.  Then in my senior year I had English teacher, creative in her teaching style that was the perfect bookend to Miss Beatty of 7th grade English. 

Rest in peace Miss Beatty. 
From a student you would never remember, but who has thanked you throughout the years.


ADW said...

Nancy, thank you for sharing your experience. As a teacher, I can only hope that I can influence my students like you were influenced by Miss Beatty. I would even venture to say that she cared...not necessarily that you learned to write with fluidity of thought, but that she planted a seed of knowledge that would be cultivated at the right time. We don't always get to see the fruits of our labor, but I am glad you took the time to express your thanks for her labor. Now about those!

marty h said...

I never had Ms Beatty and can't remember the names of any of my Junior High teachers. Isn't that sad? I loved your write up and know even the names I don't remember had a part in training me to write, calculate, enjoy science, etc. Teachers have an amazing job of mentoring young lives. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your writing style is wonderful, I guess in part to Ms Beatty's influence!