This is the second in an occasional series of memories about my elementary school in the 1980’s. The first post is here.
My first post in this series was about a beloved principal. This second one is about a terrifying teacher.
Dr. Greggs taught third grade, and she is without a doubt the person whom I’ve been more scared of than any other in my life.
First of all, she insisted, always sternly, that we address her as “Doctor.” I’ve wondered since then just what drives a woman to demand such recognition from eight-year-olds. It’s like in the Austin Powers movies, when Dr. Evil corrects people who call him Mister: “I didn’t go to an evil university for ten years to be called Mr. Evil.”
This is the first in an occasional series of memories about my elementary school in the 1980’s.
Mr. Bass was principal for all but the last of my elementary school years. He was a wonderful man: friendly to us kids, committed to the positive environment of the school.
I say he “was” wonderful because as I look him up for details now, I find that he died in 1999. Reading there about how race was a major factor in his life reminds me of a comment my 4th grade teacher once made about him to our class. She said that when she first met him she was surprised to see that he was black. When she’d spoken to him on the phone before, she’d assumed he was white. She told us this as a compliment about his speaking. Nobody thought anything of it. This was in the mid 1980’s. I don’t suppose such a comment would pass innocently today.
My main memory of him now is from one random day during recess. All the kids were running around and I was in the big sandy area with the swings and monkey bars. Suddenly a girl screamed. She had fallen off the monkey bars and gotten hurt–it turned out later that she had broken her arm. As she wailed and cried, someone went to the office for help.
Mr. Bass came running out and went right to that girl. Quickly and calmly, he took off his suit coat and wrapped her in it, then gently picked her up to carry her to the nurse. It’s not just what he did that day, but how confidently and caringly he did it–that was a lesson in real leadership.
An elementary school named after him opened here in 2001. That’s also wonderful.