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Thursday, 19 July 2007


By Marti

Standing outside of my second-grade classroom, my life flashed before my eyes as I heard my mother’s voice coming down the hall. I grew up in a small town in central California as a first generation American. My parents immigrated to the United States from Spain. I spoke Spanish at home and had learned to speak English when I started school. I was like a sponge, soaking up new words until I became quite a talker.

What do you do when you are a talkative child and want to chat all of the time? You get sent out of the classroom to stand in the hallway for disrupting the class. I was seven years old and my teacher, Mrs. Wilkie, decided that I needed a cooling-off period.

As I stood in the hall, I suddenly heard my mother’s richly accented voice asking me what I was doing standing outside of the classroom. I looked up as she approached and realized that today was her day for bringing a treat to my classroom. My mother was a room mother for my class. In the 1950’s, it was quite common for classrooms to have designated room mothers who brought treats to the classroom for holidays and sometimes, as a surprise for the students.

I didn’t know how to answer my mother. If she found out that I had been sent outside because I had been disruptive in class, she and my father would be very upset. They had been forced to leave school at an early age to go to work to help their families and education was very important to them.

Finally, in answer to my mother’s question, I told her that I was out in the hall because I had been chosen to play in a special game. My mother smiled and went into my classroom.

Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Wilkie opened the door and motioned for me to come back to the classroom. As my mother distributed her cupcakes, she spoke to Mrs. Wilkie and told her how nice it was that I had been chosen to play the special game. My heart fell to my feet because I knew Mrs. Wilkie would have to tell her the truth: that I was being punished.

Instead, Mrs. Wilkie smiled at me and told my mother that I was a very good game player. She did not mention my talking and I learned that kindness was a great motivator. From that day forward, I learned to curb my talkative ways, at least in a classroom!

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The Elder Storytelling Place is running short of new stories again, so if you have something that you've been meaning to send in, now would be a good time.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a wonderful teacher! You were so blessed -- I did my share of time in the hall for being a chatterbox and the nuns almost always made sure they told my parents.

I was forever being called down for talking in class! Your teacher was very nice about it, though, and I might have learned my lesson too, if I had been handled this way.

Yeah. That old break-the-yardstick-across-the-shoulders thing never did work for me.

Good old Sister Mary Mercy!

"a special game"...yes it was and
the lesson in kindness and caring continues to this day and now, for each of us too.

Isn't it nice, Marti, that kindness is almost everywhere,if only you look for and appreciate it?
I was in the lamp department of a large department store one day and a woman and her gangly 13 year old boy came in. He was all arms and legs and one of his swinging arms knocked over a small lamp. The woman looked startled and afraid and the boy looked like he wanted to cry. The saleslady came streaking over and said to the disdraught mother," Just quietly leave this department. I will clean up the breakage and no one will be the wiser. Things are broken here daily by employees and no one is expected to pay, so you should not have to pay either. It was an accident and I'm sure your boy is sorry."
I thought that was kind of her to take the pressure off the mom and her boy.

Kay: My Spanish father held firm about wanting me to attend public school even though my mother had her heart set on Catholic school. My Dad wanted me to mix with children from many backgrounds and religions. He was a very wise man.

Kenju: Teachers who go beyond text books and teach by example are rare gifts.

Ronni P: Never could understand rulers and yardsticks as means of punishment in school. Sent out in the hall was bad enough especially when time was up and you came back into the classroom to the stares of all of your classmates!

grace: Lessons of caring and kindness at a young age imprint in our hearts and remain with us for a lifetime. I am almost 60 and I have never forgotten Mrs. Wilkie.

Nancy: Caring people can change people's lives as I am sure the saleswoman did in your sharing of the story of the broken lamp.

Thank you all for responding to my story and for sharing about your own lives.


I can remember doing that hallway thing. I wasn't a trouble maker, but I was a good laugher. When something was funny I laughed a bit longer than everyone else. A couple times I had to finish my laughing in the hall. That wasn't funny. One teacher told me I was a joy to have her class and my grades wouldn't suffer, but I still had to be subject to the rules of behavior.

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