Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Urban Renewal

Well, they're tearing down Tim Riley's bar. Or not. No, this is actually Hillview Elementary School which is the victim of urban renewal or some such. Good riddance, I say.

Thanks, but No Thanks

Don't thank me, I voted against the levy and I'll continue to vote against school levies. The money isn't there to support schools in the fashion that school teachers would like.

Construction Site

You might think that this is a common construction site no trespassing sign, but it isn't. It's the sign parents see when they try to go inside and watch a class in session. Whether you're a parent or just a taxpayer, you are not allowed to see what goes on inside a public school when class is in session. I was told that it's a security issue. It isn't; it's a labor union issue.

Power Shovel in Action

When I was in grade school my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was kind of a toss up between being a jet pilot and flying fighter planes where you got to have dog fights and kill the Japs, or drive a bulldozer, which looked like a ton of fun. I was dissuaded from one by my parents; the other by the United States government. You guess which was which.

Shovel The Remains

Here's all that remains of old Hillview Elementary, where I was confined from Kindergarten until sixth grade. Seeing this reminds me of the teachers I had in elementary school and so I decided to list them along with a few notes. Remember that I graduated high school in 1970, and that school teachers were allowed to discipline their students as the teacher saw fit - if a teacher didn't like you, you got paddled with something the size and shape of a cricket bat.

Mrs. Carol Ulganer (sp?), Kindergarten. We were instructed to call her Miss Carol, her last name being a little hard on the tongue. I don't think she really liked children all that much and she was given to petty fits of temper. She, like most teachers during this time, enjoyed ridiculing individual students for infractions of her mercurial code of conduct or for poor performance.

Mrs. Warrener, first grade. Mrs. Warrener established the standard by which all other teachers would be measured, and most would fall far short. I'm not sure how she managed class when about a third to half of the children were from Appalachian immigrant parents who came North for the good jobs in the auto industry and who had a right lively lifestyle. Weekends meant cashing the paycheck and buying such necessities as beer, whiskey and ammunition. Then the fun started. The family would get loaded and play with the gun collection in the back yard, which in Sylvania Township is perfectly legal. Inevitably Maw would get mouthy about something and Paw would slap her around, and the police would be called. Whether or not anyone was hauled away, the party would roar right along and noise complaints would start filtering in around 1:00 AM. The police would show up again... and again at 2:00, and so forth. Eventually everyone who refused to pass out would be hauled away to the drunk tank, and the legal system would spit them back out in time for work on Monday. So, you see, half the class came in on Monday remembering this circus as the cultural high point of the week end. On the other side of the economic dividing line (maybe more than one line) were children from the affluent South Flanders Road area. All of these families had money; one girl in particular had a swimming pool and a tennis court in her back yard. There weren't many noise complaints in this area of town, nor did people drink to excess and play with their gun collections; in fact, most didn't own firearms.

Mrs. Gregoric, second grade. She was young and attractive, and I remember her as having poor health.  She was nice to the students.

Mrs. Hook, third grade. She was old and nasty tempered. The system should have retired this antique years before I had the misfortune to land in her class, but she was still running strong on seven and a half cylinders when I left. The woman wasn't terribly bright and it tended to show.

Mrs. Van Fleet, forth grade. She was old and ugly, uglier than a mud fence, and the thing that made her ugly was cruelty. By forth grade the retards were quietly transferred to their own class which met in the basement (no kidding, that's what they were called and that's where they had class, and before anyone reading this gets a bug up their ass about my choice of language consider this: no one looked down on these kids or ridiculed them). Since there were no classes for gifted or especially bright children, the rest of us were segregated in the class room. In Van Fleet's class, the bright kids sat next to the window on the right side while the great unwashed sat on the left. The preference and preferential treatment did not go unnoticed.

Anyway, there was one boy who could not sit still. The child would almost vibrate. When recess hit, he'd literally run the entire time because he was so full of nervous energy. I've never seen anything like it, then or since. So Van Fleet would demand he sit still, would belittle him and ridicule him in front of the class, and finally ended up by putting his desk next to hers so as to isolate him. She'd further punish him by taking away his recess time, and finally one afternoon while the rest of the children were outside, Van Fleet baited this boy until he lost it and threatened her with childish physical violence if she didn't let him alone. Van Fleet slapped him across the face.

I was being punished for some minor transgression and so was in the classroom at the time, and I watched the whole thing unfold. Van Fleet should have been fired for this, but wasn't, probably in a large part due to the fact that none of the students could articulate what was going on.

Mrs. Dressler, fifth grade. The worst of the lot that I encountered, Mrs. Dressler was putting in her time until retirement and didn't care if her students learned anything or not. Things got so bad that I was transferred to a different class.

Mr. Lechlak, fifth grade. As poor as some of the others were, they were offset by Mr. Lechlak. The kids loved him and would do anything he asked. He was a great instructor and a real credit to his profession.

Mr. David Color, fifth grade. Color taught reading class and he was a bully, pure and simple. He liked to use the classic dope slap, liked to pick kids up by the ear and thought it was fun to paddle the students. He would encourage the kids to bully each other, which some took to with a real talent. I never ran into David Color in my adult life, which is probably just as well.

Miss Levy, sixth grade. Levy was a jew and hated the goyim, pure and simple. The goys (that is, the entire class) didn't understand this but did understand that they were universally disliked. This is the first time I'd ever experienced racial prejudice and I truly did not understand it. Oddly, I think my father guessed what was going on and did nothing about it.

Mr. Craig, sixth grade.  Craig taught reading class, and while he was certainly a bright, knowledgeable man he lacked emotional maturity. When he lost his temper he behaved like a 12 year old without a parent to curb his outbursts. His real problem was that he didn't care for children; it's likely he'd have done better working with older students.

When I finally graduated from Hillview I had high expectations of a better school with far superior instructors. I was wrong.

1 comment:

Ruben Brosbe said...

Thanks for sharing. I think a lot of us who came through traditional public schools could share similar stories. I was pretty fortunate during my elementary school years, but I had fewer and fewer good (forget about great) teachers as I went on. Still, my interest in starting an ad campaign is only partly about acknowledging our current teachers. Even if not every one of us is doing a commendable job, those teachers who are deserve a little recognition. More importantly though, I think your post illustrates perfectly the reason we need an ad campaign for teaching. We need to attract better people for the job!