A Diamond in the Rough
The Fairfield City Schools were not prepared for the influx of so many new seventh graders coming in to their township in 1960. Many families including mine had responded to the opportunity to build their “dream home” at an affordable price. How did anyone know so many finished houses would have so many 7th graders?
The Fairfield School Board prepared for a split session for the 7th graders. Half the students would have school from 9AM to noon; the other half from 1PM to 4 PM. It was the teachers who were making the sacrifice of a longer day with double the students!
Sleeping late every morning was fine with me. I wasted time by watching TV re-runs of “I Love Lucy” instead of studying my spelling words. The bus came at noon to pick up the Normandy Heights’ 7th graders first. We were on the bus almost hour after picking up more kids from all over the township. Arriving home at five o’clock PM was a long day.
As great as the older Oakley teachers were they had not prepared me for the educational excellence of Fairfield. My straight A’s at Oakley qualified me for the top level. The secret level code was: THE QUICK BRS. Morning classes were H, Q, I, K, R; afternoon was T, E, U, C, B with S for special education. This would be my first time to struggle with classroom assignments! Mom tried to get me to move down to level ‘E’ but my pride stood in the way. I did consider changing levels every time I sat down at the beginning of a spelling bee. I still have trouble with spelling. Thank God for Spell Check.
The first day of school a cute boy from over on Service Lane got on the bus. He was tall, dark, and handsome. The other girls noticed him, too. One day on the bus someone behind me tapped my shoulder and handed me a boy’s ring. I looked one seat back and the cute boy was smiling at me. I blushed. Was he giving the ring to me?
I was more relieved than disappointed when he told me to pass the ring to Peggy sitting up front. When Peggy got the ring she turned around to see what was going on. Someone yelled at her that Bobby wanted to go steady with her. If I had been her I would have thrown the ring back at him. How could he give her something so personal in such an impersonal way? I lost interest in him after that. I was proud of Peggy when she dumped him the next day. She and I became friends.
At Fairfield the only A’s I got were in Art. (I had to work hard to get B’s and C’s in my other classes.) I won first place in an Art poster contest which boosted my fragile ego. The poster was of a man in a car offering a bag of candy to a child standing on the sidewalk. The caption read: “Don’t Accept Candy from Strangers!” My picture made the newspaper for the second time; the first time was for selling Girl Scout Cookies to the mayor of Cincinnati.
Mr. Smith was my Helen Keller miracle worker, Miss Sullivan. Somehow this literature teacher inspired me to have a close relationship with words. The assignment was a 25 page term paper. Ugh! I hated writing until I found out I could copy word for word from the books if I gave the writers credit. I became detailed at giving writers credit with a neat Bibliography at the bottom of each page. Mr. Smith said to always give credit and we could not be charged with plagiarism and end up in prison.
My first term paper was on “The Nineteenth Century Apparel of Men and Women”. I didn’t realize I picked a topic with embarrassing pictures but it was too late to change. I was shocked to see the drawings of bare-chested women in fancy dresses in public. Beneath my B grade, Mr. Smith wrote: “Write in your own words more;” “too many bibliographies”.
To save face with Mr. Smith I decided to be more disciplined with the second term paper. I was a slow reader but I forced myself to skim read and condense the information into my own words. This time I got an A+.
Daily, Mrs. Pottenger had the class take turns diagramming English sentences. It was a silly assignment until Joyce Brewer explained hers and made it fun. After that I caught on to nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, helping verbs, prepositions, etc. I still have trouble with adverbs.
Beautiful Joyce Brewer never showed any embarrassment of her occasional stuttering while she explained her diagrammed sentence. I could relate to her because of my delayed speech. I loved her smile and confidence as she spoke and drew in the class laughing at her self. She took her time as she waited for the words to surface. She never gave up until she was finished. She was a delightful inspiration.
At the end of the 7th grade our teachers loved us so much they asked the administration if they could teach us again next year for 8th grade! We were thrilled and honored.
We are all diamonds in the rough waiting for our reveal. I believe God gives us our talents or gifts but there is that one that rises above the others. Call it our calling…our passion. We can be good at something but lose interest or hate doing it. If we can do something for hours and it seems like minutes we may have found our calling. In 7th grade I began to think I was an “artist in the rough”. Art was easy and it gave me an edge and acceptance with my peers.
I remember after rearranging words for hours on the second term paper I was bone tired but exhilarated . . . I know now I was a “writer in the rough”.