|Because of her exterior beauty, Halle plays the role of the subject of this post, Miss Conley, my 4th grade homeroom teacher, who was also a very beautiful woman.|
A recent reflection of myself at age 10 brought me back to your 4th grade class. Next to my third grade teacher, Mrs. White, who often doted on me, making me feel special, but sometimes uncomfortable because of the vibes I felt from other children who perhaps were envious, you were one of my favorite teachers. Mrs. White still remains my all-time favorite. I suppose this letter should be written to her. But it was thoughts of you that caused my recollection of an incident that occurred in your 4th grade classroom some 50 years ago.
Miss Conley, I thought you were so pretty, your handwriting impeccable, and your mannerisms and presence were ideal. You were the perfect teacher in my young impressionable eyes. I wanted to be you because you could do no wrong, until the one day you chose to abuse your authority over some of us.
|4A students accepting free candy from another classmate|
On this particular day, many of us were given candy by another classmate, Tina H, an only child who was not part of the "popular clique." She was chubbier than most, had very short hair, and by other people's standards of beauty was probably not at the top of the pleasingly aesthetic scale. Tina would, therefore, often do things to "buy friendship" or favor from fellow classmates. Her mother was the principal's secretary. We saw Mrs. H. whenever we went to the principal's office for tardy passes, to obtain excused absences, and the like. I thought she was an attractive woman who styled her hair in a bubblecut.
Later that day or the next day, Mrs. H. discovered that ten dollars was missing/stolen from her purse. The thief was her own daughter, our classmate. Before accepting the candy, we had no knowledge about how she purchased it. It was chocolate candy, Miss Conley, offered to us, and like candy-loving children, we ate it.
After Mrs. H. informed you what happened, Miss Conley, and after Tina gave you the names of those who accepted the candy from her, you openly reprimanded us before exacting corporal punishment. That is the moment my adoration for you came to a screeching halt!
|4A students lined up to receive licks in their hands with a wooden ruler or paddle|
As I stood in the line you commanded us to form, I shot daggers at you while waiting to receive the unjust thrashing of my hand with the wooden ruler or other wooden object you used. The "innocent," non-candy eaters sat at their desks observing our humiliation.
The pedestal upon which I had placed you toppled that day, never to again be erected. I still cannot get over the fact that you punished innocent children for accepting candy from a classmate. I don't think any of us would have accepted the candy had we known it was purchased with stolen money. Why did you think we knew or not care that we didn't know the source of the money? Why did you feel it your responsibility to punish us? In hindsight, I wish I had shared this incident with my mother, but I probably feared that might have led to another unjust punishment. So I remained silent until now.
What you did was wrong, Miss Conley; it was not your place to punish us. You should have informed our parents about the incident and allowed them to decide what punishment, if any, was warranted.
The guilty parties were Tina (for stealing and feeling the need to buy friendship) and you (for penalizing the innocent).
I am sure you moved on seconds later or maybe you did feel a twinge of guilt. Who knows? Who cares? I moved on to never like you again and that incident remains one of my unpleasant childhood memories. Today I am letting the bitterness that accompanies the recollection go, but I will never forget what you did, Miss Conley. Never.
It is difficult for me to forget transgressions against me and mine and even more difficult for me to forgive transgressors. I hold the infraction in memory to avoid a recurrence and duplication of the accompanying hurt. Even when I do forgive, I never forget.
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
― Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter
During the time she was my 4th grade teacher and in the years beyond, Miss Conley reminded me of the late-Janet MacLachlan, an African American actress who was frequently seen in TV roles during the 1960s and '70s. At the time this post was published, I did not know the actress's name. Recently I caught the end of episode 114 of Good Times, "Florida Gets a Job" where MacLachlan played the role of Sandra Forbes, who competed against Florida for the bus driver position that Florida ultimately obtained. After viewing the episode, I immediately conducted an Internet search and was able to identify Ms MacLachlan.