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School Days, School Days
Dear Old Golden Rule Days
by Don Drewniak

Note: The title of this post consists of two lines taken from the lyrics of a 1907 song, “School Days, School Days.” Chuck Berry covered it in 1956 (Billboard U.S. #3/U.S. R&B #1).

The first half of my senior year in college was dominated by practice teaching of American History four days a week at a local high school. The fifth day (Friday) was spent at the college eduring two teaching related courses.

Having attended a large public high school in a small city in Massachusetts helped to prepare me for the experience. I was also fortunate to have Richard Sherman, an experienced and very competent gentleman as my mentor.

The center for the boys’ basketball team was six-feet, five inches in height. Rare in those days. Edward (name changed) was well-behaved and a solid low A/high B student.

I was teaching solo for the first time during an early October day when one of those never-to-beforgotten events happened. The classroom had armchair desks and, as a result, the kids brought their books and other materials with them to their classes. Edward carried what he needed in a large gym bag.

After my usual short opening monologue, I told the kids to open their books to page 77.

(There is a reason why I have never forgotten the page number.)

Seconds later, a girl (“Maureen”) who sat two seats behind Edward let out an ear-piercing scream and bolted to the back of the classroom. Resting on her chair arm was Edward’s jockstrap.

His head was buried in his hands. The jockstrap had apparently been on top of his history textbook and when he pulled the book out of the gym bag, it was “Up, Up and Away”.

It is impossible to accurately describe the pandemonium that ensued. Ignoring the chaos, I walked over to Edward and directed him to retrieve his . jockstrap. I then walked to the back of the room where four or five girls were trying to console the victim. I had one of the girls escort Maureen to the nurse.

I didn’t say a word for at least five minutes before resuming what passed for teaching. Maureen and her escort returned shortly thereadter. Not a sound could be heard as Maureen walked toward her chair. She stopped alongside Edward and whispered something to him. He smiled. Reading his lips, I could see he said, “Thank you.”

Once a week, Sherman drew check the boys’ restrooms duty. This was primarily for student smoking as it was a major problem. Students caught smoking received five days of detention and a parent had to come to school for a meeting with one of the two assistant principals.

Nothing of any note happened during our patrolling going into early December. Walking into a second-floor restroom, Sherman and I saw a small cloud of smoke rising out of the first stall.

“This is Mr. Sherman. Get out of that stall now!”

Seconds later came the sound of the toilet being flushed.

“Out now.”

The door opened and out staggered two boys.

I don’t remember much of the conversation that followed other than the boys denying they had been smoking. Off we went to the office. Both assistant principals were elsewhere in the school. After consulting with the principal, a secretary told us to bring the boys into his office.

Sherman detailed what we encountered to the principal, Theodore Bernacki.

“Boys, anything you have to say?” asked Bernacki.

One of them replied something to the effect that they weren’t smoking.

“One more time, gentlemen, why were you smoking?”

Both of them once again denied doing so.

“Fine gentlemen,” replied Bernacki as he put one of his hands on the receiver of the phone on his desk. You will remain in the outer office while one of the secretaries calls your parents and directs them to come to the school. You can then tell them that you weren’t smoking, but you will also have to explain what the two of you were doing together behind a closed stall door.”

“We were smoking.”

“We were smoking.”

That was it for notable events that happened during my days of practice teaching. Except, perhaps, for twin beavers that were once displayed to me during a Monday morning class. I don’t want to bore you with the details.