Miss Henderson ….

April 1, 2009

Miss Henderson was my usually nice, though frequently moody, sharp-tongued junior high English teacher.   She was probably in her 30s at that time, though she seemed older.  She wore a tall old-style beehive hair style when I was in school and had the same hair style years later when I would see her periodically.  She never seemed to change much and as far as I know, she never married.  She was always Miss Henderson,  and was  related to one of the more well-known families in the area.

The school system I went to was set up so that 7th grade students remained at their elementary school for the year, and only joined all the other district students in eighth grade.  This meant that 7th grade students that went to the main district had the junior high 7th grade all to themselves for a year before the rest of the district students joined them.  For the newbies in 8th grade, this sudden change was a clusterfuck of mass proportions and rocked our world.  The main district students from 7th grade were the old-timers, known to and knowing all the teachers and the lay out of the building, whereas we new 8th graders didn’t have a clue.

We were lost for the first several weeks if not months.  It was very much like our freshman year in high school, always stressful, instead lasted two very long years, including both eighth and ninth grades.

Anyway, when I was in eighth grade I was mistakenly placed with, shall we say, the “slower” English students at the junior high.   I wasn’t alone in this administrative faux pas.  There were a handful of students like me in class that were supposed to be in the advanced class.  It was quickly pointed out that we weren’t supposed to be there, but we were stuck, the excuse being that there were “no openings” in the advanced classes for us.

This was a sore point several times throughout the year for several of us, but luckily Miss Henderson showed visible delight at our presence in that otherwise dullard-filled classroom.   Tired as we got of it sometimes, we always read our assignments and did our homework, and one of us always saved the day in the seemingly endless semester of diagramming sentences.

The point of all this rattling is this: Miss Henderson once gave us a writing assignment that came due right before parent teacher conferences.   My memory isn’t clear on how long we spent on the assignment  but I think it was a week or more, as it had to be of significant length.  I can’t remember what I wrote either, but I do remember thinking long and hard on the assignment, and came up with something that had to do with God, I think, and the Universe, and how when you died you became part of the universe and thus of God.  Which was pretty interesting for a guy who didn’t believe in a god, I thought.

I was usually a good enough student to not worry when my Mom and/or Dad met with my teachers for these conferences.   And I don’t remember too many specific conferences in all the years they went.  But I do remember my mother’s conference with Miss Henderson.

My mother came home aglow.   In front of my father, who also began to glow, she said that she’d spoken to Miss Henderson, and that Miss Henderson was “just so enthusiastic about having [me] as a student!”

She had shown my mother the composition I’d written.  Then with a big smile, she said, “HE should become a writer!


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