One thing my school (and I’m sure many others) had a huge hangup on was talking. Teachers at West Heritage were OBSESSED with getting us all to, for lack of a better term, STFU. This remains, of course, the eternal losing battle– you weren’t going to get a room of kids to be quiet for very long. Hell, even Craig Ferguson has issues getting his audience to quiet down after the intro to his show, what makes you think an elementary school teacher would fare much better?
This wasn’t so much an issue in Kindergarten, where it was a given that a bunch of little kids were going to chatter nonstop. Yet in first grade, I learned that teachers had this extremely hostile reaction to us kids saying words… at all. If there was one word that was guaranteed to never, EVER appear on any spelling or vocab list, it was “quiet.” (Now that I think about it, the only synonym for quiet/silence I ever saw on such a list was “reticent,” and that probably wasn’t even until, what, seventh grade?)
Obviously the reasoning behind this fixation of NO TALKING, EVER was “classroom management” (teacher code for: sit down, shut up and listen while I say words that are supposed to float into your brainholes) but wow, some of the teachers here were really, really shouty and whiny about it. My own first grade teacher, Mrs. White, came off as a very scary sort at first– who WOULDN’T be intimidated by some loud old lady who yelled all the time? (That’s the hilarity– in getting us all to be quiet, these teachers ended up being louder than us!). There was also one of the third grade teachers, Mrs. Reinheimer, who was also quite shouty. (She was also super-tall and wore sunglasses even indoors… I think, in hindsight, she might have suffered from migraines, which would probably make her much more sensitive to light and loud noises.) Finally, among the fifth grade teachers, there was Mrs. Kerr– another tall woman and, now that I think about it, looked quite a bit like Final Fantasy XIII‘s Fang, except with darker hair. (Fancy that.)
Let’s go back to my first grade teacher here. Mrs. White was the very vision of the crazy-loud old lady. You wouldn’t have known such during the pre-launch meet-and greet; she seemed like a very friendly, grandmotherly character… but all bets were off on the first day of school. The first few months were nothing but constant demands for silence, usually directed at specific students. I think, at this time, her yelling all the time might have permanently influenced me into being a not-chatty person, which already put me at odds with some of the chattier classmates I was seated next to. Eventually, though, there was a point where Mrs. White came around and realized that yelling at everyone to be quiet all the time wasn’t getting us anywhere, and we were finally able to meet the “badass grandma” that we originally encountered in August. She would probably have been an excellent roleplayer, now that I think about it, as she could easily get into character without much preparation time. In particular, there was one instance in which she was demonstrating a door-to-door salesman scenario for an upcoming fundraiser, and she played a housewife as an example of a person we were expected to make our sales pitches to. Something about watching her perform had entranced my 6 year old mind… she was no longer the scary old lady who wanted everyone to shut the hell up.
As for those other shouty teachers? They more or less stayed that way. I recall passing by their open classroom doors when I was dispatched to deliver messages to other teachers. This was the early 90’s, remember, so any correspondence between teachers had to be run by hand, usually by sending a trusted student. As an introvert-in-the-brewing, I welcomed these few minutes of escape from a noisy classroom, but at the same time I feared being sent to hand off a message to one of those loud teachers because I thought they would turn their anger on me. Ah, I think they also influenced me into being a quiet person, too…
Take it to heart, those of you who might take the path of teaching small children. Be careful if you opt for “silence by intimidation” as a tactic of classroom management, as you just might push some of your more introverted charges a little bit beyond that point of being too afraid to speak up in public space.
Character Connection: I promise not to make a habit of this, but there are some unavoidable instances in which I have to identify a teacher or some other person of authority as having influenced the creation/development of one of my characters in Across Universe. In this case, Mrs. White would later be spiritually transplanted to the “old lady pattern” of Katherine Nazou. Just so you know.