My handwriting is practically illegible. Unless I am signing my name or scrawling a grocery list, I have given up pens in pencils in favor of the keyboard. As my fingers flew across the buttons today, I jokingly thought “I should send a note of thanks to the person who taught me to type.” It took a bit of concentration to jog my memory. Typing class was more than twenty years ago. But then it came to me. Typing 101 with Miss Scruggs.
I’m sure all teachers are mutli-taskers, but in rural schools this concept gets taken to the next level. Miss Scruggs taught me algebra, calculus, and typing. She was my cheerleading coach and the adviser for my brother’s class. It might have been to her benefit to just set up a cot in the back of the classroom and camp out for the school year.
I would love to tell you that she instilled a love of math in me, but I hated math and I still do. I realize as a possible future teacher I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I studied my calculations long enough to pass the tests and then promptly forgot them with exact proficiency. But that doesn’t mean that Miss Scruggs did not educate me beyond my typing expertise.
One of her greatest lessons came from modeling the kind of adult I wanted to be. As I mentioned, I was a cheerleader. Yes, if you know me now, this might be difficult to fathom. Here is the obligatory big hair photo.
My squad was busy planning our first pep rally. We wanted to encourage friendly rivalry among the classes to build school spirit. We devised a game where a male and a female would be selected from each class. The participants would be blindfolded, and one would feed the other a bowl of chocolate pudding. Mess, hilarity, and good times would ensue.
Of course, we also needed two staff members to participate, because students love seeing their teachers make fools of themselves. We asked nearly every teacher in the school to take part, and were refused as soon as we uttered the words “blindfold” and “pudding” in the same sentence. Always a good sport, Mr. Mee agreed to be the male half of the team, but we still needed a female. Miss Scruggs came to our rescue.
During the pep rally, the students of used the game as an opportunity to cover each other in sticky brown goo. You would have thought they were preschoolers rather than young adults. Ok, I would still act this way today, and I’m 39. Mr. Mee and Miss Scruggs devised an ingenious plan. He loaded the spoon and held it in front of him rather than blindly trying to hit her mouth. She came forward and found the spoon on her own. They won the race without getting hardly a drop on them.
I’m sure this was not planned as an “in your face” tactic, but that’s how I remembered it. If the other teachers wanted to be curmudgeons and sit on the sidelines, so be it. She would be part of the action, and have fun while keeping her dignity. She solidified herself as one of the cool teachers.
Teen girls have a natural desire to appear older than they are. This is a confusing predicament as most girls are still learning the difference between sexy and slutty. I choreographed a dance routine to ACDC’s “Shook Me All Night Long.” I can honestly say I had no idea what the lyrics were referring to at the time. I just knew that it rocked and that the football players liked it.
The routine was suggestive to say the least. We really focused on perfecting our thrusting and gyrating. Miss Scruggs saw the routine and was not happy. Playing the diplomat, she asked us to tone down our moves. Which we did- during practice. She was not prepared for our performance.
During the middle of the pep rally, we ran out of the gym and quickly changed from our cheerleading outfits. We returned to face the crown in spandex dresses (hey, this was the 90210 days) and stiletto heels. The boys in the crowd went wild, and that was all the fuel we needed. Our demure, scaled down moves got turned up full volume. That choreography could have easily translated from the gym to the pole.
The next day at practice, Miss Scruggs in a calm, firm voice delivered her opinion of our routine. “You will not be doing that again.” She didn’t lecture. She wasn’t angry. But she let us know striptease was not acceptable halftime entertainment.
Last night over dinner, the discussion swung to high school reunions. My father-in-law asked if I had attended one or if I would attend one in the future. I went to my ten year and it was a bit disappointing. My graduating class was small- less than twenty five students. Only five or six people came to the reunion, and I had very little in common with them. They had already hit the diapers and 5am wake up call stage of life, and I was stuck in the pass out drunk at 3am phase. I’m sure we’d all have more to talk about now that I too associate the word “party” with cake rather than vodka, but I also don’t feel a burning desire to return to my old stomping grounds.
I did for a moment think how I would love to catch up with the teachers who meant something to me and tell them they left a lasting impression. Sadly, I now longer have that opportunity with Miss Scruggs. She passed away awhile back, only 56 years old. When reading her obituary, I noticed she did not have children. I don’t know if this was a deliberate act or an unfulfilled dream. She may not have had children of her own, but she left her legacy with all the children she taught and all the lives she touched.
I have no idea if heaven exists. Rarely do I spend much time thinking about it. But if there is a heaven, it would be nice to see her there. I’d love to hear her sweet Kentucky accent as she flashed her dimpled smile and welcomed me through the gates.