It's so strange to me the old stray thoughts that pop into my mind for no reason. Suddenly, I find myself thinking of someone I haven't thought of in thirty or forty years. Why, for instance, did I wake up this morning thinking of Miss Gustafson?
Miss Gustafson was a high school teacher at Classical High School in Springfield, Massachusetts. She was the only teacher of the German language. She knew German perfectly, and yearned to teach it to us. Regretfully, no one had any respect for her. What makes that so? Why didn't we have respect for her? I can't think of a reason why except that we didn't. No one did. No one.
Top students were in her class, and we all behaved abominably. We talked among ourselves the whole time. We certainly talked when she was talking. There were probably even spitballs thrown. Everyone laughed at her, mocked her in front of her. We didn't behave that way anywhere else.
Believe me, when I became a teacher and had an unruly class, it was nothing compared to how we acted in Miss Gustafson's class.
I don't really know what made us so disrespectful in Miss Gustafson's class. She knew her stuff. She so wanted us to learn. And, despite our poor behavior, we did learn.
You wouldn't think I would ever behave the way I did in Miss Gustafson's class. I didn't fully join in the mayhem, but I laughed at her etc. , so strong was I under the influence of peer pressure. Because I so craved to be liked and to be like everyone else, I became part of a mob.
In contrast to Miss Gustafson, I had a French teacher in junior high school. She was wonderful, and everyone loved being in her class. Why was the French teacher respected and loved, and Miss Gustafson wasn't? Why do I remember Miss Gustafson's name like yesterday and, for the life of me, not the French teacher's name?
I bring up the French teacher because once she went to my mother and father's grocery store and introduced herself to my mother. She told my mother that I was special and not like the other girls.
The thing was that in Miss Gustafson's class, in this case, to my shame, I was just like the other girls.
But that is not the end of the story.
Apparently, Miss Gustafson did not see that I was like everyone else. I suspect that, despite my joining in with the crowd, I must have had some faint awareness of what it must have been like for her, and I felt bad. I was sorry, yet that didn't stop me.
For me at that time in my life when I was trying so hard to fit in, the worst thing that could happen happened. Miss Gustafson liked me.
Once, she invited me to a concert. I didn't know how to say no to her. I didn't know how to say no to anybody. I went to the concert, and I suffered, and I hoped that no one would see me.
Meanwhile, Miss Gustafson held her arm in mine all evening.