Some had talked in class, others had laughed when laughing was out of order. One well-known Danvillian, whose penchant for talking was well known then, as it remains today, is said to have spent more time in the retribution chair than in her first grade classroom. You're smiling, now, aren't you? You think you know who that is, don't you?
When I attended this school it was then called Maple Avenue Elementary and housed grades 1-6 for the west side of Danville. It had been opened only a few years prior to my arrival, and when one looked at the building there was no doubt that it was a school. Today, after all the passing decades, it remains the only building in the system that looks like a school.
Discipline, a word that is vanishing from the educational English language, was never a problem in the Tolliver Tabernacle of Tutelage. Her formidable presence was normally sufficient to quell any riotous rebellion, but her "back-up," in matters of behavior, hung on the wall of her office. It was a smoothly finished paddle with three holes bored through the surface, and one only needed to imagine what velocity that long arm could achieve, as it rushed to the target area of "tush." Most remained on the good side of Edna L.
Problem in the hallway
In my third year, having escaped any particular notice from "she who must be obeyed," I encountered a problem in the hallway. The next few minutes were filled with tension and decisive action. I felt the former and produced the latter, but just as I prepared to move onward I heard the jangle of death. She was moving toward me, and even though my back was turned, the jangle was bringing me ever nearer to certain calamity.
I was escorted to the hinterland of hidden torture. I was ushered into the room and told to assume the position. As I did so, I could hear the instrument of my pontificating-posterior abuse being removed from the Wailing Wall.
She hit me three times. I deserved it. My subsequent behavior was exemplary. She did what was needed. She also scared the hell out of me.
Fast forward to our teachers today. A student defies, decries, destroys, detains and dares anyone to attempt correction. What are the teachers to do? Who cares? What support do they garner from parents who have allowed childish behavior, and watch as it is fostered onto those whose only interest is to teach them the subject matter and aid them in their learning to live with others.
In my young mis-adventure, I was paddled. I behaved, from that day forward, in the hallways and classrooms. The jangle became the constant reminder that someone was watching and the school building was never going to be used for any purpose other than learning. Today, the student who demonstrates an unwillingness to cooperate in the learning process is dealt with much more gingerly, and some say will much less success.
The educational act, based upon not leaving any child behind, would be far better served by the manner in which Edna L. Tolliver addressed the behind.
Edward Clark is a Danville businessman and a community columnist for The Advocate.