Eighth grade at the Laurel Avenue School back in 1958 was like the seventh grade on steroids. These young punks were seniors in a school that only had two grades; seventh and eighth, a scenario that just added fuel to the hormonal fire. There were some teachers who actually enjoyed the challenge of knocking some sense into this unruly group and our CORE teacher, Miss Meagher, an attractive young lady of early twenties was one such study. Her outward appearance was a facade for the commanding ways that dwelled within.
CORE (probably an acronym for something) was a failed brainchild that combined social studies, civics, and English which lasted for three full periods (as they were
called), segments of 45 minutes each. That's a long time for a 12 year old to sit and learn about things like Chaucer, sentence diagrams, and the judicial and legislative branches. At age twelve, I had other things on my mind like getting my boat ready for the spring launch and day dreaming about how I would ask some hot babe out on the boat with me.
My immediate social group consisted of three other guys, the “regulars” and one other guy that occasionally joined in the chaos. One day, I was sitting in CORE, thinking of something more pleasant, like a root canal or a polio injection when
I began to doodle on my desk and scrawled the words “bored of education.” Miss Meagher had a habit of walking up and down the aisles between the desks as she gave her lessons, addressing students personally and enforcing wakefulness. As she came down the “B” aisle (students were arranged alphabetically) she noticed my doodling and immediately changed the lesson plan and focused on my
She said “I see you are bored of education, Mr. Bruyn.” When teachers address a 12 year old as mister, the day is headed for the wall. I responded by saying “no m'am.” She made the class fully aware that I had defaced school property and the deed would not go unpunished, announcing for all to hear that we would “have a little chat” right there in that classroom immediately after school.
She returned to the lesson plan with style and grace, never missing a beat, nor displaying a fluster. She had full control of this entire class of belligerent little eighth graders.
The specter of seeing her after school was not as daunting as it might have been if I had an appointment with the Chief of Police but it was somewhere around 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10.
By the end of the day, I settled into our “regular” group of friends at homeroom and we discussed my upcoming after-school engagement. For whatever reason, Dan Dowd, the “Fonz” of our group offered to accompany me to this after school “fireside chat” with Miss Meagher, a gesture which I accepted without hesitation. If there is strength in numbers, I now had a charismatic cohort.
When the bell rang, the two of us walked confidently to see Miss Meagher and upon entering her room, she casually said, “I've been expecting you, Mr. Bruyn and I see you have brought your body guard.” I was dumbfounded and I think Dan was as well. We stood there without a response and without stuttering she said, “Mr. Dowd, you are now dismissed.” Dan vanished like yesterday's news.
The “bored of education” graffiti phrase which I had scrawled on the desk was ironic since my dad was then a member of the Board of Education. He used to refer to the principal of our school as “Big Ed” and he knew all the educators personally. I thought oh, jeez, I just can't stay out of trouble.
Miss Meagher had her own classy little way of handling things without causing a scene. She directed me to clean all the desk tops with soap and water so all the kids could enjoy a nice clean desk, free of graffiti scrawls caused by the likes of young punks like me. I was somewhat humiliated, but Miss Meagher turned it into something positive and when my task was done she said “now Mr. Bruyn, we're not going make mention of this to anyone are we?”
The next day, the kids all started with a “clean slate,” myself included. They may never have noticed that their desk top was so clean...and those that did never knew why. Until now.