“A wise old owl lived in an oak; the more he saw the less he spoke, the less he spoke the more he heard. Why can’t we all be like that bird?” – nursery rhyme
My fourth grade teacher was a short, stocky, gray-haired woman who we respectfully addressed as Mrs. Roop. I have no idea what her first name was, not that we would have dared call her by it anyway. And like most gray-haired teachers to a bunch of fourth graders she seemed much older than she really was. Most distinctively, though, she was very short, no taller than most of her students – four-feet-eight-inches perhaps. Yet, she could have easily stood eight-feet-four-inches in our eyes, for she had total command of the classroom. One snap of her fingers and everyone came to attention.
Her classroom was arranged in a conventional fashion with a large wooden desk at the front of the room which faced the several rows of neatly aligned student desks where we were required to sit attentively throughout the day. Interestingly, though, unlike most teachers Mrs. Roop seldom sat at her large wooden desk in the front. Instead, she preferred to sit among her pupils in one of the small student desks near the back of the room. And except during those times when she was lecturing, reading, instructing or explaining – about which she was very concise by the way – that is where she spent a good part of her day. From there she would summon her students to the chalkboards requiring us to demonstrate our comprehension of the subject being covered while she sat in the back of the room quietly observing, only occasionally speaking up to explain or correct something. In the end fourth grade proved to be one of the most critical years in my formal education, one that provided a foundation that carried me through the remainder of my academic career.
Why Mrs. Roop never sat at her large wooden desk I don’t know. Maybe she was too short But I rather think it’s because she was like that wise old owl who lived in an oak, the more she saw the less she spoke, the less she spoke the more she heard . . . and since her method was so effective I just wonder . . . “why can’t we all be like that bird?”