The classroom my fourth grade teacher created was forever in chaos. My father was on the school board, and I remember some frantic end-of-summer scrambling to fill the position, and remember, roughly, that—how can I say this?—she wasn’t one of us, not really a Christian school teacher not at all. I don’t know why all of this is parked forever in my memory, but I still today have the unrighteous sense that she was somehow not among the chosen. I don’t know if that view affected my assessment; maybe it was simply a means by which I could judge her incredible ineffectiveness in the classroom. She was horrible. She tried hard, but she failed miserably.
One cold day out on a pile of snow when some of us met together, I tried—at my parents’ suggestion—to tell the really bad kids (I’m sure I was no goody-goody myself) that we all ought to cool it, that nothing good was happening in that classroom, that our ability to make trouble was destroying everything, the very same room in which Mrs. LeMahieu ruled just the year before.
I will never forget being very uncomfortable when chaos ruled. Here’s what I see when I remember that year—an adult woman hopelessly confounded by bad kids, mostly boys she was incapable of handling. I was no sweetheart, but in fourth grade there were days when I wanted to stay home. Kids may well think they’d like it, but they don’t—chaos isn’t fun. And I was no goody-goody either. I'm sure I participated.
About that conference on the plowed snow? I don’t know that it created any change. But isn’t it strange that I remember that—and so little else? Something, I knew, had to be done. I don't know how to say this exactly, but that day I felt myself, probably for the first time, as owning a prophetic voice. I tried to reason with the others--we all did. For a moment at least, we policed ourselves. That it made any difference, I don't know. But I remember the noon-hour conference on the snow pile.
One more thing. I was a fourth-grader, and I was a boy. It seems almost impossible now, but I remember that when she leaned over our desks--and she was not a young woman--we could quite easily observe a fulsome chunk of her breasts, and I don't think we called them "breasts." That too became a game in my fourth-grade classroom: Gary would ask her to look at his worksheet, she’d lean over, and we’d all take a gander--the boys that is, maybe not even all of them.
Maybe, in fourth grade, I was no longer a little boy.