aka The Frazzled Mom
There have been many teachers in my life that have had an impact, positive and negative. I can remember one English teacher that, though not intentionally, pushed me to hate reading such classics as The Hobbit and The Canterbury Tales. Or those, like Miss Miller, who gave challenges to memorize James, something that has stayed with me even to this day. But when I think of those that have made a more positive and lasting memory in my mind, there is always one that stands out: Mrs. Peak.
Before starting Junior High School, I’d heard whispers of her name, as if a myth, a legend of a teacher so strict that at her mere touch, your blood would freeze. Needless to say, I was nervous about who she was and whether or not I’d survive her class, her presence even. I sat in one of the middle rows in the room, taking in the surroundings: the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, various posters on the walls and a large chalkboard that looked practically new, it was so clean. And then she stood.
Forgive me for saying, but at first glance, what I saw was a woman who reminded me of Margaret Hamilton. If you don’t know who she is, watch The Wizard of Oz. I’m not saying that Mrs. Peak was the wicked witch, but no means. Mrs. Peak wore an A-line dress with long sleeves and a modest collar. It might be considered vintage now. Her hair was always, always, done up in a neat bun. Not a tight small bun in the back of the head, but a larger style that wrapped around, covering her ears. It’s silly now, but I recall some classmates questioning whether she had earlobes at all. The final touch was her black rimmed glasses.
By now I’ve no doubt painted a terrible picture of her, one that my classmates might cringe at. But trust me, as a child everything seems different. As an adult, your perspective changes. What you saw as big and scary, takes on a different meaning entirely and makes you wonder if it had always been that way. What I’ve given you was my first impression of Mrs. Peak. As the days went on, my eyes were opened to a new teacher. Gone were the days of the frazzled, exasperated instructor that yells and places your name on the board. Mrs. Peak? She was in a category of her own.
If you were caught talking, she suddenly appear at your side, like a spectral. Her fingers would wrap around your shoulder and squeeze. What did it feel like then? Like an icy grip that made your blood run cold and your heart nearly stop. Would she yell? No. Lose her cool? Absolutely not. She said, almost in a whisper, a word of warning. And that was usually all it took, for any of us.
Looking back on it now, I find it funny that the one teacher that most seemed to fear is the one I now hold in highest regard, the one that I remember with fondness. For me, she’ll always have that positive influence on my life, one that pushed me to do my best and nothing less.
She also taught me the classroom isn’t the place for chewing gum. 😉