Welcome to way back Wednesday. We've been doing so much 6th grade work that it's made me nostalgic for when I was in 6th grade.
Miss Castles was my favorite teacher. She taught me in 6th grade. She also taught my Dad in school, so she'd been teaching for a very long time. She didn't follow the normal textbook curriculum. She exposed us to classical music and art as well as english and social studies. Her class was the first time I heard the famous duet from Madame Butterfly and she taught us to contrast the heavy music of Bach with the happy piano of Chopin. She exposed us to classical paintings. Each classroom in the school had a print of a classic painting hanging over the chalkboard. She had us research a painting and then do a presentation to that class about it. Mine was The Gleaners and I still have a special place in my heart for that painting.
And, she taught us about social conscience. I can remember working on a project that she sponsored to collect comic books and pecans to send to soldiers in Viet Nam. I was one of the two students chosen to help deliver these. I don't remember anything about us taking them except getting to ride, with my friend Denise in Miss Castles' big black Oldsmobile. On the return, we drove along the street that runs along the river and is lined with the biggest and nicest houses in my home town. One is like a castle and at the driveway to the house, there was a Gingko tree. When we went by, it was spring, but she explained how the leaves turned in the fall and for extra credit, I wrote a short story about a horse named "The Golden Gingko" who went to work in the circus when he was only 3 years old. Oh, how innocent that sounds now.
Miss Castles had connections to my family, other than teaching my Dad and all my aunts and uncle. I don't know exactly what the connection was, but my grandfather built some simple furniture and Miss Castles ended up with a china cabinet he had made. I made an appointment many years later to see it, but when I got there, she wasn't home and I never got to.
Miss Castles never knew she was my favorite teacher. Because she was old fashioned and wanted to expose us to things that were not popular at the time, my classmates made fun of her and the peer pressure was more than I could resist and I participated. But, secretly, I always loved her and remember her fondly.
I remember the white shirtwaists she always wore with a dark mid-calf wool skirt, the klunky mannish practical shoes, and her gray hair with it's perfect permanent waive. For Christmas, she gave every child in the class a gift. For the boys, she gave us a handkerchief with our first initial embroidered on it and for the girls, a flower that had been made into either a pin or a hair clip, I can't remember which.
I had a friend named Marcus who probably should have been in special education classes, but his mom insisted that he be in the class with the rest of us. I can remember Miss Castles trying to teach him to write legibly, over and over and tirelessly she worked with him. In fact, she taught us all penmanship and how to write beautiful cursive.
Miss Castles never married. She fell in love with a WWII soldier who didn't return from the war and as far as I know, never found love again. She lived with and took care of her mother until her mother's passing. When the government put the freeway through town, their home was condemned to make way and they moved into a little house down the street from several of my friends. During the city's first attempt at de-segregation, she chose to move with her class to a school that had traditionally been an all African-American school, but when that attempt to desegregate didn't work, she came back to Minnie Ruffin Elementary School where she taught until she retired.
I am grateful for all the extra effort Miss Castles put in as a teacher. And, tho she is long passed from this world, I know that she lives in the hearts of many of us who did not know how to appreciate her. Now, I've passed that knowledge along to you and hope that it will remind you of a special teacher from your life.
Take care and have a great Wednesday. BTW, the dentist gave Rob enough Valium to give him the giggles before we went to sleep last night and today he is very calm and relaxed. Thank you all for your kind words of support. They have helped me immensely and your good thoughts have passed through me to him.