Mrs. Bishop was one of my favorite teachers, and although second grade (around 1975) seems so far behind me, I can still remember so many details of that year.
I think Mrs. Bishop was an early example of character education. This was back in the day where kids (most of them, anyway) learned manners and how to behave at home. But Mrs. Bishop was constantly sitting us down after lunch and talking softly to us about an incident on the playground or something that had made her feel disappointed. After her non-threatening talks, we’d all feel terrible and promise in our minds to do better.
After all, we didn’t want to disappoint her.
Kids would take turns walking around the playground with her when she had playground duty. Boys and girls alike would take their turn getting some quality time with Mrs. Bishop, and she’d inquire about what we’d been having for meals at home, what TV shows we liked, what books we read, what sports we played. She was interested in all our lives. In her own way, she was a bit of a social worker.
There was a family who had a house fire when we were in her class, and Mrs. Bishop brought things to school to give to our class mate. I know she did it in a subtle way, but the kid in question told us all later that he’d been given all kinds of things he’d lost in the fire. We sat, wide-eyed, listening and in awe of how brave this kid was. And we were thankful folks were helping this family out.
Public speaking was something Mrs. Bishop encouraged. I can remember “show and tell” when we’d take turns telling the class about something. If a shy person got up to share, Mrs. Bishop would prompt them with questions and somehow get the timid student to talk a little. She had an old radio mic on a stand, and when she pulled that out of the back closet and brought it to the front of the room, she’d say something like “Second Grade Radio” is on the air. We’d read poems we had written, read short stories to the class, share artwork, tell jokes, or even do some short plays that most likely had weak plots.
Whatever we did, Mrs. Bishop would make us feel like it was the best.
I don’t recall her ever “playing favorites” or excluding anyone. She treated us all as important and also seemed genuinely concerned about any trials we faced.
I can remember the day we had a substitute teacher supervise inside recess duty. Most likely, no one gave the poor lady any guidelines and we ran around like nutcases in the gym/cafeteria after lunch, with rubber dodgeballs and hula hoops flying through the air like missiles.
By the time we got to class, our hearts were racing, our cheeks were flushed and we were sweaty messes.
Mrs. Bishop was so concerned about us she felt our heartbeats, gave us paper towels to wipe our brows, and also gave us an extra drink break. By the time we were finished with her ministering to us, we felt bad for being such maniacs and overexerting ourselves.
Each Friday, we’d have Weekly Reader time. Remember? It was a sort of second grade magazine in which we’d read non-fiction stories, poetry and check in on characters like Zip the Dog and others. There was always a crossword or a quiz at the end of the articles.
Mrs. Bishop made Weekly Reader time seem like we were receiving something incredibly special and would marvel at all the contents. We loved Weekly Reader time.
I think one of the best memories I have, speaking of Weekly Readers, was when we’d get a Weekly Reader Book Club order form. We would take extra time in class to peruse the selections and even if we picked three or four books, we wouldn’t spend a lot of money. Everyone ordered back then and everyone waited impatiently for the box to arrive in the office.
On the special day, Mrs. Bishop would announce that the books had come in and she’d let us cheer for a little bit. Then, with great fanfare, she’d ask two kids to go to the office and retrieve the box. There would be a ceremony of handing out the books, commenting on titles as the eager student went forward to collect them. Then, she’d give us time to skim the books, share the covers with one another and even spend a little time “previewing and predicting” what we thought the story would be about.
In the box would also be classroom selections; books Mrs. Bishop had let us vote on and order for classroom reads. We knew there would be one in there she would begin reading to us soon. Some that come to mind are “The Reluctant Witch” and a book called “The Treehouse Mystery.”
Mrs. Bishop made a big deal of our last book order that year. She reminded us to get books so we could read over the summer and I later found out she asked some of the less fortunate students to pick books they were interested in. I’m pretty sure she took money out of her own purse to make sure every student had some books at home.
It’s funny that I can still remember some of the books I got that year. One in particular was called “Moon Watch Summer” in which a boy, forced to stay with his grandparents on their rural farm during the summer of the first moon landing, is disappointed to learn his country living grandparents don’t have a TV set.
The book was a favorite of mine.
Did I mention they were all hardback?