Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sentimental Sunday: 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Thanks, Miss Smith!

The prompt for Week 43 of 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History is Worst School Subject.

What was your worst or least favorite subject in school and why? 

Although I loved school, there were a few subjects I didn't care for, primarily because I wasn't very good at them.  I'm not very good with my hands, so handwriting and art were always a struggle (not to mention, I'm not artistic).  In high school, I wanted to learn the skill of typing, but I didn't want a low grade to affect my grade point average, so my solution was to take the course in summer at the public school.  The grade wouldn't transfer to my Catholic high school.  I got a B, and developed appendicitis at the end of the course.  I'm convinced there was a connection (but very glad today that I know how to type).

My grade school started teaching Spanish in fifth grade.  I think it was required.  I don't have an ear (or a tongue) for languages, but I'm glad I stuck with it in junior high and high school.  I made it through Spanish V my senior year and placed out of all foreign language requirements in college.  I can read Spanish fairly well and understand a lot if it's spoken slowly.  A Spanish "fiesta" near the end of eighth grade was a highlight, as a bunch of us went to the home of my friend and classmate Lisa, whose Mexican grandmother made masa (tamale dough) from scratch.  We spread the masa on corn husks, filled the tamales, and steamed them for our fiesta.

Music was another tough subject for me.  I can't read music, and I can't sing my part (I am and always have been an alto) without drifting off to join the melody line.  I wanted to join the band in fourth grade, but gave it up after only a year.  I wanted to play flute or clarinet, but by the time I met with the band director, all those spots were taken, and I got talked into the cornet.  I hated it and I hated to practice.

It's interesting what a difference a single teacher can make.  My music teacher in sixth grade was Mrs. Carino, and I was inspired to join the choir that year.  We did two performances.  There was another choir in eighth grade, but the music teacher didn't inspire me, so I did not join.

Physical education, P.E., is another good example.  I'm not athletic, I'm not even particularly coordinated.  But I had a wonderful P.E. teacher through much of grade school who encouraged us to get involved.  I wasn't good enough to win the Presidential Youth Fitness Award (85th percentile), but I WAS good enough to earn a Youth Fitness Achievement Award (50th percentile) on the Youth Fitness Test.

Miss Smith, though, encouraged us to TRY and do our best. In seventh grade, I swam on the swim team. We only had one meet (there weren't that many Catholic schools in Houston with girls swim teams), and I only got two fourth place and one sixth place ribbons, but I won an athletic award ribbon that year!

In eighth grade, I swam again (second place in backstroke).  I also tried out for volleyball, and made the B team. I think everybody who tried out who wasn't very good made it on the B team, but it didn't matter. I remember one game where I served 15 aces in a row. I also joined the pep squad, Miss Smith's invention to let all interested girls cheer for the junior high football team, even if they weren't pretty enough or popular enough to be cheerleaders. Miss Smith was great about having interesting "spirit ribbons" made up to thank her teams, like those to the left and right (detail from the bottom of the ribbon on the right is at the beginning of this post).

Thank YOU, Miss Carolyn Smith (she's retired, but a friend on Facebook), for many exceptional years, and for inspiring a lifelong interest in health and fitness.

© Amanda Pape - 2011 - click here to e-mail me.


  1. How great it is to be your Miss Smith!

  2. Thanks Joan! I put a link to this on Facebook so Miss Smith would see it. Great teachers really DO make a difference, even with your worst subjects!