Dear Sarah, I thought it was about time I wrote to you again. I have started a new teaching job at a local school in a small town called Maycomb. You know, the sort of town where everyone knows everyone, I really feel like an outsider. I had planned my lessons extremely carefully, hoping they would be both enjoyable for me and enjoyable for the children. However, it was quite the opposite.
I carefully put myself together early before I was due in at school. I wore my nicest dress, my most expensive makeup, and my peppermint perfume. I thought I looked perfect. No matter how nice I looked, I still had an incredibly hard time with them. I looked around the room at all the grubby black faces starring back at me from their desks.
I calmly introduced myself, printing my name in large, clear letters on the blackboard. I then moved on to telling them where I originated from, and the whole class started muttering and looked very uneasy with me stood at the front.
I decided to read them a book, and it was all about cats! The pupils did not look as enthusiastic as I was, I thought they would enjoy it. They became restless and agitated. So I swiftly moved onto the alphabet, this was as much of a failure as the book, many of them could already read the alphabet, I was told at collage that first graders needed the alphabet teaching to them.
One little girl, Jean Louise Finch could even read a newspaper! I asked her to tell her parents not to teach her to read and write because it only meant I would have to undo all the damage. She seemed to think she was born reading. No one is born reading!
This child was causing me immense frustration with her cheeky attitude.
While I was teaching them how to use the Dewey Decimal System, Jean Louise was writing a letter! I do wish her parents had left the teaching to a professional. She will not even need to use her literacy skills for at least another two years.
By the time lunch arrived I was already exhausted. Most of the town children went home for their lunch. Others from the farms around the edge of Maycomb had brought their lunch in enormous molasses buckets. I walked around the classroom examining the food, I gave a quick nod at those I approved of and gave the others a stern look. Some of the food they had looked repulsive, rotten and dirty. I then stopped at one boy’s desk, he had no lunch, his skin was mouldy grey in colour, every bone on his face petruded out as though he had been carved out of stone. He was ghastly to look at, made me feel rather light-headed. I presumed he had forgotten his lunch, but when I asked him about it he became nervous and twitchy when I confronted him about it, so I offered him a quarter so he could go and buy some lunch but he would not take it! I was only trying to be nice and do the right thing, which was to look out for my students.
A low murmur spread quickly throughout the classroom. Then the cheeky little girl, Jean Louise, she stood up without my permission and shouted out in front of the class to me. She simply said,
“he’s a Cunningham.” I did not understand how this was an explanation to why this boy had not got his lunch and refused to take my money. It was as though she expected everyone to know the local deprived families. I can not believe this family can not even repay a quarter, surely they can not be that poor.
Jean Louise rabbited on about the Cunningham’s for several minutes and I finally reached the end of my tether. I simply took hold of her collar and demanded her to hold out her small, bare hand. I carefully picked up my wooden ruler, and gave her several short, sharp taps on the back of her hand. I watched it turn from white to pink, but she deserved everything she got.
I thought my ears were deceiving me when I heard the rest of the class buckled over with laughter. I felt my blood pressure increasing so rapidly I thought I would faint! It was at this point that one of my colleagues entered the room, her name was Miss Blount. The pit of my stomach seemed to lurch up into my throat. I could tell from the look in her eyes that she has not come in for a nice chat. She said in a sharp, curt voice,
“Miss Caroline, the sixth grade can not concentrate on the pyramids for all this racket!”
It was not as though I wanted the class to be noisy! I would have been more than happy for them to have sat in silence but that was impossible.
That was it, I felt like I could cry for the world, everything I had planned had gone disastrously wrong, the story about cats, teaching them the alphabet, everything.
Slowly the students filed back in, fed and watered. I hoped we could maybe try again for the afternoon but I did not have much hope. It was then that I looked at one little boy, who everyone called ‘Little Chuck Little’ and there was a sort of louse crawling in his hair. I got such a fright; I had never seen anything like it. Where I came from you just did not see people with lice. His hygiene was atrocious, how could his father allow him to go out looking like that. Filthy hair, mucky clothes it was disgraceful!
However, when I had got over the initial shock he fetched me nice glass of cool water. I was just beginning to calm down when I saw him reach up and grasp something from his hair, then he squeezed his fingers together and the louse was gone, thank the Lord. His name was Burris Ewell, the other children seemed to think little of their family as when I told him to leave and wash his hair they told me that all of his family would come for the first day of term, then leave and not return until next year.
After Burris would not listen to me when I told him to stay I just broke down and flooded the classroom with tears. This had been the most aggravating day of my life. Everything had gone so wrong and different to how I expected. I thought all the children would be eager to learn, not dreading it. I want to come home, but I will see how it goes over the next few weeks. It may get better, or worse for that matter, who knows.