|Fifth Grade, 1955, Golfcrest Elementary School, Houston Texas. Mrs Shoemake, Our Teacher, Is On The Right. I Am Standing Next To Her, Second Row From The Bottom|
My parents were furious with me. My other grades were very poor, also. My dad called me lazy and stupid. Looking back, I don't blame him. He was beyond frustrated and didn't know what to do to get me straightened out.
I hated school. Every day at school was a day of constant daydreaming and tuning out the teacher. I was a terrible student.
When I started the 1954/1955 school year, however, things would be different. They would be very different. The reason they would be different is because I happened to be entering the class of Mrs. Dorothy "Dot" Shoemake.
Mrs. Shoemake was a no-nonsense genius of a teacher. It took her about two months of my shenanigans to completely figure me out and begin to execute a plan of action. This had never happened before. Not at school, and not at home. I was in for the shock of my young life.
In my class picture (above) Mrs. Shoemake is standing on the right. I am on the second row from the bottom, standing right next to her. Note in the picture that five of my male classmates are wearing a patrol belt, signifying a high level of academic achievement and responsibility.
I wanted to be a patrol, too. There was nothing I wanted more than to wear that belt---that emblem of achievement. But, of course, that was out of the question---my grades were horrible and I was pretty much uncontrollable.
One day Mrs. Shoemake overheard me being mean to one of my classmates who was wearing a patrol belt. The next day in class, she struck with the slyness of a fox, the understanding of Freud and the wisdom of Solomon.
In front of the class, she said to me, "Clinton, why did you say those mean things to Tommy yesterday?"
I was embarrassed. I looked down and said in a low voice, "I don't know."
The great lady then continued, in front of my classmates. "I'll tell you why you did that, Clinton, since you are unwilling to tell us yourself."
After a moment of silence, she applied the coup-de-grace: "You said those mean things to Tommy because you are jealous of him. He has earned the right to be a patrol, and you have not. But you really want to be a patrol, don't you, Clinton?---and that is why you were rude and mean to Tommy. Please see me after class, Clinton."
After class, I approached Mrs. Shoemake, firm in the knowledge that I was yet again in trouble, that I would be required to take a note home to my mother which would inform her that her son had once again acted badly at school.
But that did not happen. She asked me if she had been right about why I had said rude things to my classmate. I did what any 10 year old American boy would do when he has been caught red handed by a superior intellect: I cried.
Mrs. Shoemake had me in the palm of her hand. That had never happened to me before. She had me figured out and I knew it.
She told me that I could be a patrol, too. After all, she said that she was the person who appointed patrols for the school. And, if I wanted to be a patrol, I would need to start making good grades and start being courteous and well behaved. This little conversation got me to thinking. One thing was for certain---I wasn't going to outsmart Mrs Shoemake.
I started to study. My mom helped me with my homework. My grades started going up! I tried to turn my behavior around at school.
|This is a painting of me, age 10, in my beloved patrol belt. This painting was done from an old photograph. The artist is my wife, Cindy. Painting done in pastel and pastel pencil.|
I don't know what ever happened to the legendary Mrs. Shoemake. I pray she had a long and happy life. But I do know that I will never forget her and her impact on my life.