I walked into the classroom to see all my new pupils, I was nervous at first but then Miss Maudie introduced me to the class and everything was fine. I wrote my name on the board and told them what it said and where I am from. The class just murmured back to me. I started the day by reading the children a story about cats, I think they liked it but then again some of them did seem immune to imaginative literature. After reading I went to the blackboard and printed the alphabet in large capitals. I wasn’t surprised that everyone knew what they were seeing as most of the first grade had failed last year and where now back again for me to teach them.
I choose Jean Louise Finch to read out the first line, when I discovered she could read. I then made her read My First Reader and the stock-market quotations from The Mobile Register aloud. I was shocked that Jean was literate but I told her not to tell her father not to teach her anymore as it would interfere with her reading. Jean then replied to me trying to tell me that her father hadn’t taught her anything, I just smiled and shook my head somebody had obviously taught her, she wasn’t born reading The Mobile Register. Jean then told me Jem had taught her and he read a book to her where she was Bullfinch instead of Finch. Jem said she got swapped when she was born.
She was about to carry on but I just interrupted her, she was quite clearly lying to me so I told her again to tell her father not to teach her anymore because it is better to begin reading with a fresh mind and that I will try and undo the damage. Her father does not know how to teach properly. At least at the end of it she mumbled sorry to me but then again it was her fathers fault for teaching her in the first place.
I am introducing a new way of teaching that I learned about in college I hope it is going to work well. The Dewey Decimal System is the new way of teaching it consists of me holding up cards to the children with words on them. I then caught Jean writing a letter so I told her to tell her father not to teach her to write either and that she doesn’t start writing until the third grade. It really surprised me that she was able to do this but also angered me because it is just going to make it harder to teach her the proper way to read and write.
At lunchtime I told everyone who goes home for lunch to hold up there hands and then everyone who brought a pack lunch I told them to put it on there desk. I had a walk around to see what the children had and if I approved. I then stopped at Walter Cunningham’s desk, he didn’t have any lunch, at first I thought he had just forgot it so I asked him and he just looked straight ahead a muscle jumped in his skinny jaw then I asked him again. He finally replied with ‘Yeb’m,’, so I went to my desk and opened my purse and lifted out a quarter for him to go town and buy something then he could pay me back the next day.
He shook his head and drawled softly ‘Nome thank you ma’am,’ I was getting impatience and told him to come get it, he shook his head again, and the third time he shook it I heard someone whispering to Jean saying ‘go on tell her, Scout’. I didn’t understand but then Jean told me Walter is one of the Cunningham’s and from the country. It was then clear to me that Walter didn’t forget his lunch; it was just that he didn’t have any today nor would have any tomorrow or the next day.
I didn’t like the way Jean had to tell me all of this so I hauled her up to my desk; I had just had enough of her. She had started on the wrong foot in everyway. I just could not take anymore of her so without a thought I made her hold out her hands and I picked up my ruler and gave her half a dozen of quick little pats and made her stand in the corner. Now I think about it I do feel guilty but I think she did deserve it and hopefully will teach her a lesson. Everyone had now realised what I had done and broke out in a storm of laughter. I threatened the rest of the class with a similar fate and they exploded again, it only went quiet when the shadow of Miss Blount fell over them. Miss Blount is a native Maycombian as yet uninitiated in the mysteries of the Decimal System, appeared at the door hands on hips and announced that if she hears another sound from the room she’ll up everyone in it.’ She also told me the sixth grade couldn’t concentrate on the pyramids because of the so called racket coming from my room. I did not appreciate her coming into my classroom and telling my pupils to be quiet. The bell then went for lunch everyone filed out I just sunk in my chair and put my head in my arms. A lot had happened in just half a day and there was still the afternoon to come.
Everyone came back from lunch, I was standing in the middle of the room and I’m sure the children could see sheer horror flooding into my face when I saw the cootie crawling out of Burris Ewell’s hair I screamed ‘it’s alive’. Little Chuck told me not to be afraid of a cootie and brought me back up to my desk and got me a drink of water. I really do not like cooties and insects so that’s why I reacted in such a way. I took out a thick volume, leafed through its pages and read for a moment and told him a good home remedy for Burris. I told him I wanted him to go home and wash his hair with lye soap and when he’s done that treat his scalp with kerosene. He looked and me and said ‘What fer, missus?’ I replied quickly to him to get rid of the cooties because the other children might catch them and we wouldn’t want that.
The boy then stood up he was filthy, his neck was dark grey and his hands were rusty also his finger-nails were black deep into the quick. Before he left I also asked hi to bathe him self before he comes back tomorrow. I was very surprised when he just laughed at me rudely and told me that I wasn’t sending him home and that he was already on the verge of leaving also that he had done his time for this year. I was quite puzzled about this so I asked him what he meant. The boy didn’t answer though .An older pupil from the class then told me he was one of the Ewell’s, and that this school is full of the apparently they only come in the first day and then leave. He had the first day of the first grade for three years now.
Burris stood up and I told him to sit back down please that was a serious mistake. The boy’s condescension flashed into anger and told me to try and make him. I just did not know what to do. Luckily Little Chuck stood up and just said let him go and that he was a mean one, a hard-down mean one and Little Chuck was right. Burris walked towards Little Chuck but then his hand went up and just said ‘Go home’. Burris seemed afraid of Little Chuck, I still didn’t know what to do so I took advantage of this of his indecision and told Burris to go home and if he doesn’t that I would call the principal. When he was walking out he shouted to me ‘Report and be damned to ye!
Ain’t no snot-nosed slut of a schoolteacher ever born c’n make me do nothin’! You ain’t makin’ me go nowhere, missus. You just remember that, you ain’t makin’ me go no-where!’ I just couldn’t hold it in and I started crying, don’t know what came over me it was just what he had said, I was only trying to help him. Everyone came around my desk they all made me feel a lot better. I was happy when they asked me to read the story about the cats again, so I opened up a book and started reading for them again. I liked my first day but I hope tomorrow goes better and I get no more cheek from the children or Jean telling me lies. Other than that I think I will have a lovely time at this school.