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ImageArleneB
Oct 26, 2016 6:09 AM CST
Name: Arlene
Grantville, GA
Personal taste can often account for numerous problems. One time I had to teach a teacher's workshop, lots of people attended. Lots, as in more than I expected. Some I didn't know, some I did. It was about integrating cultures via the arts into regular classroom studies. The day started a little rough, a late summer day, hot and sweaty and I remember grabbing a hat as I left, probably a straw hat, not too shabby and wore it with me as I entered in a late hurry to teach that workshop. My opening words as I rushed in were simply, 'So sorry, I'm having a really bad hair day,' and I jerked the hat off and let everybody see hair that waved in all directions. It was longer then than now. Messier too. But I grabbed a band and jerked most of it up in a pony tail and opened my mouth to introduce myself when the entire group started laughing and then applauding. Best workshop I ever taught. It was in a summer session at Murray State U.

Fast forward to another year and we had a very expensive guest speaker hired from the state's list of preferred speakers named Azalea something. She was a bit older than I was, larger, but then most are, and she got up to speak. I sort of noticed that she was wearing a tailored gray 3 piece suit, the kind that comes with a buttoned vest, with low heeled black shoes of no real description. Her straight skirt hit about 3 or 4 inches below her knee. I remember thinking she should have worn boots with that skirt instead of almost flat black sort of penny loafer type shoes. Her blouse was buttoned up to her bottom chin, though she wasn't really fat, and there was a ruffle circling her entire neck. Tightly. Her hair was . . . well I can't remember her hair, dark something, but nothing about the hair registers. It was hot, and I remember wondering when she'd start sweating.

Anyway, she got up to speak and the room was respectfully quiet and her first words were something about teaching us how to dress for the classroom. I glanced down at my long flared and pink and green flowered skirt that was trailing the floor from my chair. And my toes peeking out from my hot pink sandals that had pink and green beads on them. Matched my skirt. And my Salmon colored Kiss Me Pink toenail polish. Matched my shirt, the one that also had pink and green beads on it. Scooted down a little in my chair. Hid my shoes beneath my flowing skirt. Picked up a notebook and held it across my hot pink shirt. And was very thankful I was short. And could scrunch up.

So she talked about clothes and how important it was to not divert attention from the important subject being taught by wearing very dark colors and very dark shoes for the sake of our dignity. There were men in the group, many men and they were not left out of her directions. Same thing applied, dark clothes for dignity and to keep the young ladies from falling in love. And the young men. Dark clothes demanded dignity and close attention to what you were teaching. She said.

After what seemed to be days of her droning but dignified voice she opened the floor for comments or questions.
Now keep in mind that I have a lot of friends. Many of whom sat in that room that day listening to Azalea. Men and women teachers, all of them. Some of them had also been in the culture workshop that I taught the year before. The straw hat hair one. They had once been good friends. Long ago.

One of them opened the comment period by standing up in front so the world could see, dressed as he was in his brown slacks and open collared knit golf shirt and said, 'Ms Azalea, do you think it's proper for a workshop teacher to come late into a classroom filled with teachers and begin teaching her workshop by yanking a straw hat off her head, letting some kind of wild curly hair fall in her face and then taking time while she introduced herself to tie it all up into a pony tail?"

Azalea kind of sputtered trying to form the word No, which I heard barely though she probably yelled. Because just as that 'NO' rolled off her sputtering tongue, that room burst into laughter and then wild applause.

The stinkin' woman thought the applause was all for her because she took a little bow and raised up when the applause finally stopped and continued talking about how undignified that was, beneath the dignity of that teacher who should surely have been given walking papers immediately. What a perfectly awful example she set for any student, she said. I don't think the wicked woman ever realized that not a person in that room was looking at her. By that time I was probably down on the floor somewhere but luckily the meeting was over shortly after and I sort of crawled out of that huge room. My principal, my friend, walked up to me after and told me he very nearly walked over and asked me to stand up so she could get a good look at an excellent teacher with 30 years of experience behind her, no matter if she was covered in a straw hat and pink daisies. The truth is later he said he did tell her before she left. I hope he really did. I loved that man, still do.

So sometimes we stifle our inner selves to meet expectations, but sometimes we let them out of the cage and hope we don't offend too many people. It's just the way we are.

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