MEMORIES: 1977-1978

In the spring of 1977, Mike Teitelman and Tuck Ganzenmuller proposed a change in my schedule: Mrs. Gorham and I would share two seventh grade English classes. One of us would concentrate on teaching grammar; the other would concentrate on novels, short stories, poems, etc. Mrs. Gorham wanted me to teach the grammar; she would handle the literature. On Fridays, we would combine the classes or keep our assigned section for composition practice -- that’s what we called it in the days before computers.
I was elated about teaching grammar since I felt rather comfortable espousing the pleasures of everything from parts of speech and parts of a sentence to verbals, maybe with a little bit of luck even clauses. I was determined to relive the halcyon days of grammar drills I so loved. Since I had arrived in Denver with six levels of the Heath Handbook of English, loved Warriner’s, and had collected a few gems during my career at Girard College (grades one to twelve), I floated on air as I walked home that day to my tiny abode on Cherry Creek Drive South. Four days passed-- I had a traditional grammar curriculum in hand. I was ready to sing the praises of Dofoo.
Thanks to this arrangement, I was teaching almost 50% of the seventh-grade class (when I interviewed for the position, I did mention that seventh and tenth grades were my favorite classes to teach and wanted to teach more than one section of seventh grade, if possible).
The Hickeys and the Gorhams delighted me. My goodness, these were such a wild and wonderful group. So darn bright, too! Almost all of them thrived on grammar. Some of them interrogated me about the illogical aspects of the language; these kids were stern taskmasters. They were not just willing to memorize; they also wanted to know the why behind the facts. For me, U-51 was the Elysian Fields where grammar was THE spoken language.
Yes, I was still teaching one section of eighth grade English and ninth grade English. I would say my grade rose from a C to a B-, sometimes a B. I was learning -- not a bad idea for a teacher. I was a more competent eighth and ninth grade teacher, yet I had miles to go before I would risk and be myself. I was still impatient with myself and others. Yet, I was more determined to succeed. My mother said I was stubborn; my father chose to use the word persistent.
Again, I must thank Dan Barney and Cathy Peryam for shepherding me through this curriculum. My fondest memory of this dear lady --other than Cathy’s mighty Wellington-- was her willingness to teach me the spelling rules. I had never learned them in school and panicked about the idea of teaching them. These two educators were the voices of reason, ever agreeable to my asking dumb questions.
I ended the year with a smile; next year would be better.

Graland Country Day School

55 CLERMONT STREET    DENVER, CO 80220    303.399.0390   
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.