When I was in primary school I had a German born teacher who had also taught my sister, who was, as I mentioned earlier - nine years older than I was. I think Miss Hoelzen also taught my Dad, who was considerably older than I was - if she didn't teach him she came over in the Ark with him! (Sorry, Dad - couldn't resist that line!) Miss Hoelzen was a bit overweight, but I used to figure she wanted to be strong looking like that so that she could really throw her weight into her convictions. She would get very frustrated with us when we weren't cooperating and learning the things we were supposed to be learning. I don't remember if Miss Hoelzen taught any other subjects, but she did teach us how to sing Silent Night in German. I can still do it today. Verbatim. She was that kind of teacher - could really drill it into you.
She had white hair which she wore in a puffy bun with her hair pushed onto the top of her head. She wore sensible shoes, as my Mother would have said, and she was forever saying to me: "Janice, when I taught your sister she was a joy to have in my class. Always so quiet, always ready to learn. Now I have you - what am I supposed to do?" One time I made the mistake of saying, "Well, Miss Hoelzen you should see Joyce now - bet she wouldn't bother to learn Silent Night in German now! And, as much as I like the sound of it - when will I ever use it!" She used to just sit and look at me, shake her head, and probably wonder where my family went wrong with me. I just would sit and smile at her and wait for an answer - she never really had one....
Anyway, when I was her student she decided to arrange her classroom so that her desk sat at a strange angle in the rear of the classroom, and then arranged the student desks in a semi-circular pattern around her desk, facing it. So in other words we faced the back of the classroom, not the front, and sat at weird angles--I think she thought she could throw us off, if she confused us in how to sit in a classroom.
Guess where I sat. You guessed it...right in front of her desk! In fact I could touch the edge of it! I remember most clearly the lessons we used to have after lunch - mainly because I can still smell them! I don't mean to be rude, but there were morning smells in primary school, and then after lunch smells. In the morning, most of us kids were still fresh from morning scrubbings at home, and we just occupied a classroom. Unless one of the boys 'let off', the classrooms were usually pretty good. But after lunch, especially with most of us brown bagging peanut butter sandwiches there was a definite odour of peanuts, sweat, and kid smell- the kind of smell that happens to kids when they take part in life--mostly actively.....and then there was Miss Hoelzen.
Miss Hoelzen obviously liked coffee at lunchtime, and from what I could smell, a lot of it! Now my Mum and Dad drank coffee but they didn't spit the smell and splash it all over my face when they got excited talking after drinking it. Well, because I was sitting so close to Miss Hoelzen's desk--I could practically touch her desk blotter - which I used to try to do sometimes. She would get so excited in her music and her lessons that she would yell out with her coffee breath. But as I was right there--right next to her desk, I got the coffee smells and sometimes the spits which unfortunately landed at times right on my nose or cheeks!. It wasn't a fun time in my life.
I became fascinated with how far my arm would reach to touch the stuff on her desk, especially when she was really excited and not paying attention to me, which wasn't often, I have to tell you! Sometimes I would be able to slide a piece of paper from her desk and I would make a breathing tunnel to cover my face, so that I didn't have to smell the coffee or get showered. But she usually noticed what I was doing and I was usually ordered to behave, and stop my nonsense. (Believe me, it wasn't nonsense - it was a means of surviving the smells all around me!)
But finally the Christmas holidays arrived, and we sang our German Silent Night at the school assembly and dared not get a single word wrong --I'd write it out for you now - but that would just be showing off!
So even though dear Miss Hoelzen suffered in trying to teach me, I did learn. My report cards always mentioned things like 'Janice has a tendency to talk too much in class. While she can apply herself very well, she can be a disruption' - The only thing I ever disrupted was boredom and the need to make the clock on the wall move faster---but I guess that's another story!