Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dear Miss Conley

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.
Dear Miss Conley,

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.

The candy Tina gave us that fateful day was the then 50 cents chocolate bars sold by students for their schools and other organizations for fundraising.   They were two to three times the size they are now.  Tina had purchased a case and shared it with some us.  We were 10, Miss Conley, children, who had been offered candy by another classmate, someone we knew and trusted.   So we gladly accepted and ate it without asking questions.

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 AngelouLetter to My Daughter

ADDENDUM:
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.

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21 comments:

  1. WOW.., I remember the days of corporal punishment, that paddel. Also the big candy bars. Yes you can forgive but we'll never forget...This will have a lot of ppl thinking.

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    1. Those were the days... when kids usually walked the straight and narrow because corporal punishment was used in schools, neighbors could and would chastise you, and then you'd get it again at home. Most teachers had wooden paddles that were kept visible on their desks.

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  2. Wow, I can't even imagine. That was so wrong. I did enjoy your dios. The poor little girl crying while standing in line. Awww.

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    1. Poor Briana Joy, standing in for one of my classmates, did have a hard time dealing with the unjust punishment.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this part of your childhood with us. It is good that you have been able to free yourself from all the bitterness after so many years. It is not easy to forgive and forget when you have been unjustly wronged. People say that letting go makes one stronger. So you are a strong woman.
    Corporal punishment with paddles, wooden rulers or plastic oozes, that brings me be back to almost 30 years ago when I was a little girl going to school in Africa.

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    1. Times have changed and methods of punishing children in US schools have changed as well. It is now against the law in most states, if not all, for teachers to use corporal punishment.

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  4. Mrs. Luis. That was our teacher from hell. In elementary she would walk around carrying a yard stick. If you looked at her funny she would tell you to put your hand out and she would smack it. The worst part is that she lived in my neighborhood and she would make up stories about kids doing wrong and then tell their parents. She was a total psycho. Some people shouldn't be over kids.

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    1. Mrs. Luis sounds like a psycho and a person who should not have been allowed to be within 2 feet of a child. I'm sorry you had to experience her wrath.

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  5. WOW! Yeah, a lot of stuff went on back then! It wasn't unusual for teachers to hit students or even the Principal to hit students. Sad that happened to you.

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    1. Thanks, Ms. Leo.

      To be called to the principal's office was something that I avoided like the plaque. You knew you were in big trouble if the principal needed to see you or if you were sent to the principal's office. This is not to say I wasn't sent, because I can vividly recall one time being sent to the principal's office by my 8th grade history teacher who went off on me for no reason. Classmates were talking; he kept telling them to be quiet; they ignored him. The girl who sat by me kept talking and I said to her in a whisper, "Sharon, just be quiet." He heard me say it and said, "Get out! Right now. Go to the principal's office."

      Oh and then I acted a fool. LOL! A couple of weeks before he had chosen me to recite a speech in an upcoming program. I had the speech in my purse written on index cards to practice. When he lashed out at me that day, I said, "Fine. I'll go to the principal's office!" Then I proceeded to remove those index cards from my purse, tear them up in tiny pieces, throw them onto the floor, and said, "Get someone else to say your dumb speech!" And I took myself to the principal's office and told him what happened. I was not punished and told to return to class.

      I didn't say that speech either. LOL!

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  6. I remember getting paddled for something other students did like getting out of their seats when the teacher left the room. I enjoyed your scenes.

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    1. I always hated it when teachers would make the entire class suffer for something that one or a few others did.

      Glad you enjoyed the scenes, GG.

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  7. Miss Conley was so wrong! I'm wondering if she was given incorrect information when she made the horrible decision to punish innocent children. It sounds like they only had Tina H.'s account of what happened, and who knows what she told them in order to make things easier on herself.

    Your dioramas were great. I felt so sorry for the kids standing there waiting to be unjustly hit.

    World's Finest candy bars are like half the size that they were when I was a kid! I remember they used to have whole almonds, not the little almond chips that they have today. They are still delicious, though, and I'm happy to donate to children's fundraising by purchasing them. :)

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    1. Miss Conley definitely was wrong, Roxanne, but I believe she was given the correct information.

      At some point during the day after discovering the money was missing from her purse, Mrs. H. (Tina's mother and the principal's secretary) must have confronted Tina about it. After she confessed that she took the money, purchased the candy, and gave most of it away to classmates, Mrs. H. told Miss Conley what happened. I can't recall if Tina gave Miss Conley the names of the people she gave candy or if the class was asked who was given candy and we "gave ourselves up." I think Tina told. Before she punished us, Miss Conley told us Tina stole the money; that's how we found out what happened. Before that, we were just kids who had innocently accepted and eaten candy.

      So yeah, she was dead wrong.

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  8. Speaking of corporal punishment, conversations in previous years about allowing teachers to carry guns, was absolutely ludicrous, in my opinion. Some of those teachers are loose cannons. Could you imagine them just going off one day and shooting someone in the class? I can.

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    1. Conversations in recent months about teachers and college students having the ability to have guns at schools and universities as well as the recently passed Open Carry legislation here in Texas are all quite unsettling. Pretty soon things are going to turn into a legalized Wild-Wild West because guns in the wrong hands will always equal disaster and loss of lives. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/texas-verge-passing-open-carry-law/

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  9. aż wbiło mnie w krzesło - Halle to zjawisko!
    choć druga kobietka też mnie zaintrygowała...

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!