school supplies

Science Class Stories

illustration from Pa Lia's First Day

According to Mrs. H., my eighth grade science teacher, the first nylon stockings were too durable. They rarely ran, and so, they were rarely replaced. In order to make a profit, manufacturers had to produce a shoddier product. And they did. Surely that’s an important lesson for the young to learn.

Most of the basic science facts that appear on standardized tests did not weave their way into Mrs. H's science classes. Instead she treated us to the facts she felt we needed to know. She explained to us why our nylon stockings never lasted more than a few wearings. She informed us how men, who like her own husband, can leave one afternoon to buy a pack of cigarettes and never return again. She educated us about a time when the health department posted quarantine signs on a family's door, like when she and her family had the flu. Mrs. H was a young girl back then, I’m guessing this was the 1918 flu epidemic, and until she took sick, too, she nursed her mother.

This week as school starts in Iowa and we as a nation struggle with educational standards and reform, I think about all that I learned from Mrs. H. Those long afternoons, in her over- heated classroom with its scuffed hardwood floors, tall paned windows, and long bank of radiators that hissed and moaned, my only job was to sit and listen to her stories. No one tested me for signs of genius. No tough homework was ever assigned. Academic stress was decades away.

Mrs. H. was a terrible science teacher. Later, in high school and college, I did my best to fill the gaps in my knowledge. But after all these years, I still think about her stories.



What's it like to be the new kid on the first day of school? Read Pa Lia's First Day and find out how she makes her way at Jackson Magnet. The first book in my Jackson Friends series.