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The Tentacle


August 22, 2012

Where are you, Miss Landers?

Norman M. Covert

If you are a third grader about to start school Monday, you may not have identified her, but you hope Miss Landers is at the chalkboard when you arrive. I don’t know the odds of this happening, but would like to think that your chances are pretty good.

 

Of course, Miss Alice Landers (portrayed by Sue Randall), not Ms., not Alice, but Miss Landers the teacher, was the smiling and warm face and personality that saved Theodore (Beaver) Cleaver from a “fate worse than death.” He was entering the third grade at Grant Avenue Grammar School in the popular late ‘50s television show “Leave It to beaver.”

 

It is worth noting that children today are still exposed to the long-running show featuring Jerry Mathers in the title role. Miss Landers is there and we still love her. The show is on a number of cable channels, sharing space with “I Love Lucy,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and others in the half-hour genre that showed America in what many think was an innocent but wonderful era.

 

You know, of course, that Miss Landers taught “Theodore” through the fifth grade when she broke his heart, announcing her engagement to be married. Grant Avenue Grammar School was never the same.

 

Every day I am bombarded on Facebook with discussion, pro and con, angry and clinical over the state of education in Frederick County. They beat up on curriculum, text books, budgets, an apparently dysfunctional and “devious” school board, and the new superintendent, who apparently hasn’t found her way around Frederick County. It may be true that we just don’t like out-of-towners, a notion with which I disagree.

 

It does, however, seem that the ideologues on both sides have gone off into an empty arena and drawn weapons, slinging arrows and cutting remarks that don’t resonate with many, especially third graders.

 

The real concern, as noted above, is about who will manifest him/herself as your teacher; a pox on any perceived underlying agenda in the social studies book or the relative merits of the failed TERC mathematics curriculum.

 

Of course, schools are quite different than the environment within Grant Avenue Grade School, which was a virtual clone of my Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, three short blocks from our home in Newport News, VA.

 

I admit to still having a dislike for my first grade teacher. I fell in love with my second grade teacher and was an eager student of third grade teacher, Mrs. Nelson. She wasn’t Miss Landers, but more like, perhaps, the unseen, but obviously mature Miss Othmar in the PEANUTS™ cartoon. Her son, Lloyd, was my age and a pal on the playground.

 

These days we care for three hermit crabs for my third grade grandson, but Mrs. Nelson introduced me to hermit crabs in our classroom terrarium. What a thrill it was to realize “our” crab had tossed away the old shell and moved into a larger “home” with which we had tempted it. My current crop just sits there, but they don’t have to be walked.

 

I should say how lucky I am that when I was registered for first grade; it was in the old, three-story, early 20th century constructed standard building, an imposing edifice cloned throughout the city for other neighborhood schools. I started in the all-new facility; a plus for me was that 1948 was the first year boys were no longer wearing knickers!

 

Our eight- and nine-year-old boys and girls will spend this school year locked in a classroom with a teacher who can make or break their thirst for formal education. This year can be the moment that influences an educational journey filled with wonder, excitement and the tools of a happy, successful life.

 

Teachers are the key to education. Unions, money and salary raises don’t make them better teachers. They either have it or they don’t. These special teachers are worth whatever we can afford to pay them!

 

Now, if the various departments of “education,” the National Education Association (NEA) and its affiliates and the dysfunctional school boards would get out of the way, perhaps we can attract more of the Miss Landers teachers to Frederick.

 

More immediate though is to find out Friday at the Open House whether my grandson’s third grade teacher displays the it to make this a good year. Would that he can establish a bond as he did with his first grade teacher. She earned his love and respect and she appreciated the challenge of sharing learning with him.

 

Fingers crossed? Ready, set, go!

 



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