Death Of Teacher Ruins Students' Ability To Make Fun Of Her
68 year-old Mrs. Emelia Boston, a social studies teacher at Gridgedale Elementary in Sawplatts, Kansas, died Thursday of a stroke, say doctors at St. Luke's Hospital where she was admitted the previous day. Her death, while affecting relatively few in the Sawplatts community, has come as a shock to most of her 3rd grade students, having seriously weakened an entire mini-culture built around making fun of her.
"I came to some prominence by mocking Mrs. Boston cleverly and creatively," said Kevin Peterman, 9, a leading playground figure. "I made up a rhyming song entitled 'Mrs. Boston Is Like Doo-Doo', which was sung by the class pretty much at any moment that she left the room. It became an unofficial anthem."
Like Peterman, Angela Wicker, 8, also feels she owes her popularity to Mrs. Boston.
"I could do her voice. I just made a kind of low humming sound in the back of my throat. This produced a texture similar to her gravelly voice while pleasurably reducing her mental faculties to that of a zombie. Though in real life, she was very sharp and quick to pick up on a weakness and tease you about it."
Wicker added, "Once she caught me sticking my tongue out. She made me stand in front of the class for hours with my tongue out. It sucked."
Every student recalls the days of Mrs. Boston's rule as that of an iron hand. Any slip-up in answering a question or putting the correct heading on a paper would result in her ridiculing the involved student. Any misconduct would result in immediate black marks in her notebook, letters home, detention, or a trip to the principal's office.
"Those were horrible times," said Thad Greene, 8. "I misspelled 'goose' in a penmanship lesson and she gave me an F. It made me cry. Then she said, in front of everybody, 'Crybabies don't get ahead.' It was very embarrassing."
"The only release was during recess when we would stand around in a circle and start chanting the song Kevin made up, 'Ree ree ree, roo roo roo, Mrs. Boston is like do-do and she knows it.' We were in a circle, so no teacher or any teacher-friendly person could approach and notice what we were up to. We felt so alive. Sometimes we would get a little bit louder than we should. Because we knew we were right. It was our only expression," said Greene.
But now, that song, and the atmosphere that produced it, is now without a center, especially since the deceased's replacement, Ms. Harper, is generally agreed to be "nice" and "not mean".
"I tried making up a song about Ms. Harper, just replacing 'Boston' with 'Harper' in the previous song but everybody kind of drifted away after a few verses. And because she's pretty and nice, I can already tell that the other boys are not coming around to listen to my jokes about the teacher being smelly any more," said Peterman.
Some students, however, claim that those like Peterman should've been prepared for the satiric vacuum left by Mrs. Boston's death, pointing to an age-old Gridgedale Elementary superstition that every 20 years a social studies teacher dies of a stroke.
"In an odd way, perhaps we should have realized that the state of things is always in flux," said Greene. "Did the superstition get her? Maybe. But whatever it was, it's changed our society drastically. Already, I've heard a few kids saying how they feel sorry for her and hope she's in Heaven, like my Maw-Maw."
Wicker, too, has seen a change.
"I used to be able to get the other girls to talk to me. I would just make that voice and people would come around and listen. They would say, 'Angie's so funny.' But now that she's gone, they don't want to hear the voice. And they won't let me sit by them at lunch. Mrs. Harper does the same things Mrs. Boston did: we still have the boring social studies assignments, the patriarchal, xenophobic interpretations of American history, the stunted gender roles, and the socializing as a endless popularity contest. That said, Mrs. Harper seems nice."
To his credit, Peterman acknowledges that he was too late in assessing the fleeting aspect of his Mrs. Boston-centric humor.
"I am realizing too late that all of my jokes were about Mrs. Boston," Peterman said. "My insistence on mocking her personally has been my downfall. If I had instead focused on her policies and the system that she was a part of, one that emphasizes lack of independent thought, conformity, rote memorization, obedience to some nebulous authority and God-figure with the concomitant and arbitrary persecution of anyone who does not follow the rules, then I would have legs to stand on. But instead, now I sincerely miss Mrs. Boston."
With a look of anguish on his face, Peterman further detailed that because of his failure to see the "big picture" -- something that is only clear now that Mrs. Boston, or "the figurehead", is dead -- he is a "let-down" to his fellow classmates.
"In my own prideful way, I have fallen into the trap of focusing on Mrs. Boston's individual cruelty and malfeasance, as opposed to the ridiculous system to which she belongs, a generic and soul-crushing routine that prepares us as future cogs for the workforce and crushes our spirits," he said sadly. "I have failed. I blew it."
Peterman added, "For any tattletales in our midst, I do not advocate stroke -- only the peaceable end of the corrupt and destitute policies of Gridgedale Elementary."
He then continued eating snack crackers and reading World Socialist Monthly.