Yesterday was my high school English teacher’s birthday, and I have been thinking all day about her. She was a legend, and I am sure that the mention of her name still puts fear into grown men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who went to Hewitt Trussville High School.
Today there is all kind of talk about rigor and high standards; Mrs. Roby would fit right in to this world. Her class was hard, and expectations were high. I remember the first day of my junior year when she told us we had one week to read the New Testament because most allusions are either from the Bible or Shakespeare and we would never be able to identify Biblical allusions without reading the Bible. I kept thinking “there’s no way she can test us over the whole New Testament” but she did.
Her grading style was hard where one comma splice was deserving of an F. Did she grade too harshly? Before you are quick to answer, those of us in her class don’t misuse commas and know how to use the English language appropriately.
When she said read a book, we all read the book out of fear of what would happen if we didn’t. And there was no Spark Notes to cover our rear if we didn’t.
I also remember that tardiness was never an option. I only remember one student being tardy to her class, and that never happened again.
These were also the days before parent-teacher conferences. The only conferences were teacher-student, and the student did what the teacher said. It was kind of a one way conference now that I think about it.
Mrs. Roby was certainly not one to be a warm, fuzzy build your self esteem teacher by giving stars and lots of praise. But our self esteem was built by hard work, accomplishment, and when she did give compliments to one of us, we would carry that with us for life.
I remember when I told Mrs. Roby that I was going to teach English. She told me that it was hard work and kids are not who they use to be. She feared for the way she saw education moving. She did not paint some pie-in-the-sky picture for me telling me to blindly follow my dreams. However, she did say if I chose to do this, do it with all of my heart.
I tend to be a very forward thinker with life in general and wonder how to make things better. What technology, method, or book will push me forward? But after spending time thinking about my high school English class, I think there’s a lot of value in moving backwards. Back to the days of no standardized tests, hard work, good student behavior, and parent support.
What teacher made a difference in your life?