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We Went to School Together: Student Perceptions — Wrong Guy
by Raymond G. Briscoe, Ph.D.
Feb 21, 2011 | 3703 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RAY BRISCOE’S new book tells of Bountiful High School’s early years.
RAY BRISCOE’S new book tells of Bountiful High School’s early years.
slideshow
Wrong Guy

She was so much fun to teach. I wondered if she was as naive as she seemed or was she just playing with me? There were times that I never knew.

She was a close friend of Sandy Jensen, and the relationship served them both well. Mikie said to me, “You seemed to always have a lot of common sense.”

“I developed my identity while I was a high school student. I was involved in a lot of activities, being a member of the Pep Club. I learned that I liked to have things well done. Shoddy work always bothered me. I liked sewing and my creations always looked good on the inside and the outside. It made me feel good.”

As a high school girl, it was evident to many of us that the boy she was attracted to was not a good match. They did marry and started a family. She righted the ship and found a man that supported her goals and interests as a person and helped her rear a happy family.

Burt the Brain When asked about my teaching his first word was, “stimulating.”

“You gave us alternative ways of thinking. I recall you drawing on the map all the military bases we have in England, Germany, Turkey, Korea, etc. It was evident that the Russians had every right to be concerned about our

intentions.

“I read a lot of books in your class: Red Badge of Courage, Battle Cry, All Quiet on the Western Front, Black Like Me, Native Son, Bitter Heritage by Arthur Schlesinger.

“You gave me a test you had prepared for the AP American History students, and I scored very high on it. You asked the principal to let me take the AP Exam, but it was to no avail.

“The Viet Nam War was raging and I remember people in the community who considered you a Communist. Our family discussed your class

around the supper table.

“The next year you rode with four of us graduates and one was Marcia. You were the host of a contest to see who could come closest to guessing Marcia’s weight and measurements. None of us ever learned the facts, but we all enjoyed it. I know that Marcia did.

“We played a lot of sports together after school.

“You had speakers come into the class to share their viewpoints. Dan Jones was there several times.

“During the last week of school, I remember you telling us in a very effective way not to ever make major decisions in your life when you are

discouraged. You reasoned that we are not discouraged that often and don’t live

your life at the bottom of your psychic capability.”

This scholar was an independent man. It should be mentioned he was also a Presidential Scholar.

Robbi

She was one attractive young lady. Tall with long coiffured auburn hair,

and very, very bright. I was impressed with her academic ability and tried to get her to major in history when she went to college. She had an infectious laugh, and the class was much more interesting because she was there.

“You did not grade on the curve like most teachers. You told us if we got 90% of the information you taught we could all get “A’s.” I was impressed and motivated.

“I remember three parts of what you taught. You started with a study of evolution. I was fascinated with your discussion on Greek history. I read a lot of mythology then, and now read it to my children. You used a lot of literature in teaching your class and I got credit for reading War and Peace. It was a great book.

“I asked you once why we didn’t stop Hitler before he caused so many problems. You took two days to answer the question and it all made sense.

“Before I was your student I heard that you were a Communist. My parents also heard it and none of us was concerned. It just went over our heads.”

The Donkey Bray

“When I entered your class I expected to be entertained. I had heard so much about your teaching. You taught with so much energy and enthusiasm that history became a ‘live and breathing’ entity. I remember a group of students going to your home for some reason. (This happened often.) I really enjoyed high school ; it was a lot of fun.

“One day you were teaching about the Spanish Armada and I commented out of turn that the wind which drove the Spanish ships back was

your donkey bray. It got a laugh.

“You taught a lot about Blacks. At that time in Utah I remember you telling us it was illegal for Blacks to own property in the state.”

I also told them that an Asian and an Anglo could not legally be married in the Salt Lake Temple. For that matter, it was not even legal for them to have a marriage license.

Tough Guy - Soft Heart

Jack was the opposite of his reputation. He had a soft heart and desired to be part of what was good at school. He was a big person, and if challenged he had a reputation of being a tough guy. He had an athletic gait and an image of a person who could cause trouble. His father had moved to Bountiful from Italy,

and Jack was a first-generation American. I asked Jack about religious issues and he replied that he got along pretty well in high school, but was beaten up in junior high because he was a Catholic. He added, “It was generally understood if you were not Mormon, you were bad.” Jack did not have a propensity toward school work and remembered the first day in my class. He was elated! “You told us that we would not have a text book for the class and we would be studying the events of the world. Homework will not be typical as in other classes, but you will be required to do your own research in the library on selected topics.”

During the interview decades after he was my student, he asked, “What is your religious affiliation?” He did not know from events which occurred in class. I felt good that I had not pressed my faith in class.

He recalled, “There was a lot of class discussion, and it was frequently on issues of Black Americans.”

At this time in our country Black citizens were staging sit-down demonstrations at lunch counters in some southern towns. Those who were rave enough to sit at a counter and ask to be served were often beaten by the bigots in the community. In a class discussion I asked those to raise their hands if they believed that Blacks should not attend school with white students. About one-fourth of the class was so inclined.

Canary and Miss Naivete

Canary had a sense of humor and enjoyed life. He was bright and motivated. He was shorter than most other young fellows and spoke with a soft voice. His eyes glistened when humorous situations arose.

“We were free to participate in your class without having to raise our hands. You were talking about what a third-world country was and I made a crack about Tyhee. (This was the rural community in Idaho where I was raised.)

In fun you took my books and threw them out the window. Our classroom was partly below ground and you let me out early so I could climb down into the window well and retrieve them.

“Just as I was climbing out of the window well, the driver’s education teacher pulled up to the curb and there was no way he would believe what I told him. With his hand firmly grasping my arm he marched me into the principal’s office. The principal believed me and sent me to my next class, which was

Seminary. Of course I was late. When I told the teacher what happened he also believed me. He said,’Nobody could make up a story like that.’”

On another day an event happened that involved Canary. There was a very naive girl in the same class who believed almost anything I said. She queried me about one of my comments of people of another country. “Are people really yellow in China?”

“Of course they are, just like those in live in Mongolia are orange. If you go farther north to Siberia they are all Green.”

“Really?” she inquired.

The conversation went on for a few minutes, and as I thought about it later, I am not sure whether I was putting her on or she was putting me on? I had served my military duty in Alaska during two different years. I

shared with the students that military folks who frequent bars said that Alaska was the only place in the winter where the bars were just as active on Monday morning as they were on Saturday night. The troops also said that a street walker from the west coast moved her enterprise to Alaska where she could find work for a few more years.

Miss naivete turned to Canary and asked, “What’s a street walker?” He was too embarrassed to answer and had trouble getting her to stop asking.

Canary also remembered that I gave people in history nick names. Sir Francis Drake in my class was “Drake the Snake.”

I began to have a negative reputation in the community among some people, and I asked my interviewees if they recalled any rumors about me before they had me as a teacher. Canary reported that he had heard I was negative

about religion and the Church. Of course, this would be the Mormon Church.

Mark

Mark was an aggressive student. He didn’t do well in the grade department, but it never hampered his ability to learn. He was tall and physically strong. He never engaged in athletics. His family situation made it important for him to have a job.

“Yea, I was an opinionated guy, but you helped me pull my head out of my a - -.” Your class had a lot of information about handicapped people and

social needs. Socialized medicine was a big topic of the day. You made fun of

those who were concerned about creeping socialism. You walked with a slight

curve to your back and with your eyes wide open and your hands out like claws and talked about the evils of “Creeeeeeping Socialism.

“I remember you spending one whole day on teaching us how to build a log cabin. Not only did you teach the concept you tested us about it on the next test.”

One of his favorite teachers was Myrintha Gill. She was an excellent speech teacher and her methods were nearly opposite of mine. She had the answers, she knew what methods people were to use, and how anything ought to

work. If she had a sense of humor it burned out of her well before she ever made it into the classroom. Mark reported, “Rarely did she ever get mad, but she was always stern. You got mad, but were over it in short order.

“Yes, I heard you were a nut about religion. A friend told me that you would stand up and argue with people in sacrament meeting. In fact he said, ‘Don’t you know that Briscoe is nuts?’”

He identified the kid who told him I was nuts. He came from a great family I knew well. The boy himself was a real piece of work sexually and had had a fairly miserable life with his compulsion.

Charlie Changes

“You insisted that every person be involved in the class. You were good at seeing that it happened. I never remember a classmate putting his head on the desk and trying to sleep.

“When you asked a question to the class you got into our faces. It required us to be active. It did intimidate some kids, but I liked it and enjoyed taking you on.

“I had you as a sophomore and as a senior. When a sophomore, it was typical for us to be sarcastic. I was very good at cutting people down. I realized that was not the person I wanted to be. When you had me as a senior you

stopped me after class and said, ‘You’ve changed, what happened?’

“It demonstrated to me that you were very sensitive to students and were aware what was going on inside us.”

Angry Then Happy

Claire’s boyfriend graduated the year before she did. I knew of the relationship and brought it up once in class to both of our dismay. She was really angry, I had invaded her privacy and should not have done it. We got over it and became good friends.

She had dark hair and sharp penetrating eyes. They glistened when she was happy. Claire was a bright girl with problems at home. Her little brother was precious to her and struggling with drugs. The ‘druggie’ came to my place once so I could meet his counselor. He wasn’t much help. I learned later that

the counselor had more problems with his own identity that with the people he tried to help. Her mother had some mental issues that caused Claire and other members of the family concerns. Just a few years after graduation her mother died and Claire came to me for support. I spent some time helping her to know what was expected of her at her mother’s funeral and what things she did not need to do if she did not want to. She told me it helped. “I was a boring person (not so). I was frightened and straight (true). I did very well in classes where I had poor teachers and they just had us read. I heard that you threw things at students. You expected them to be interested and interesting. You scared me, because I thought I would disappoint you. In your class students had to think on their feet, and I was not good at it. “At the end of the year you gave me my personal critique. I was advised to work on being more independent and more outgoing. Just be who you really

are! You ended up being one of my best friends.”

Jim The Writer

Jim seemed to always be in control. He was a real leader among his friends and a person of great moral strength. The moral statement might be challenged by some with the next sentence. “I wrote themes for other students.” Another teacher called him in and showed him a lot of the themes he had written for others and told him if he wished he could have a literary career. She asked him, “Please when you write someone else’s theme, see if you can get them to copy it in their own handwriting. “I had you first period and often came in late. I worked at Albertsons at

night and had a hard time getting up. When I came in late you always asked me a question. ‘Mr. Brown, what do you think about....’ I was kind of a smart aleck and you handled the situation well. You were good at preventing disruptive behavior. If I fell asleep, you would walk over to my desk and bump it enough to get my attention. Once you said, ‘Is it okay if I suggest you do something different?’ If I gave a sharp answer, you ignored it and said, ‘Let’s get back to the

subject matter.’ Sometimes you would say to me, ‘I know you know, but do you know you know?’”

The fellow had real character. He told me that he was with a school beauty queen and she exposed her breasts. He had an author’s vocabulary as he described the sight as “The first legs of lamb I ever saw.” His comment to her was, “I’m not into that.” She got dressed and the affair never happened. This

wasn’t his only opportunity for what many men seek. Alone with a girl at her home, he was surprised she came out from another room completely naked. “I told her how beautiful she was, and she didn’t have to do that. She cried and got dressed.”

“You saw me on campus at Utah State University the next year and asked me how I was doing academically. I happened to have my report card with me and I showed you my 3.5 grade point average. You told me I could make a

difference in the world and finished with, ‘I hope you are learning and retaining

what you learn.’ I have always remembered that. “You loved us and wanted to serve us. There was a lot of light in your

class and it seemed good and important.”

Lonnie and Ronnie

The twins were attractive and schoolwork was well down on their list of what was important. They were dead set on having boyfriends. Their abilities were sufficient for doing good work in the class, but they were short on interest in subject mater. Boys were a different matter and with them they were experts.

One of the twins told me that she liked the class because it was the first time someone really talked about things the way they really were. “You took no guff from anybody. When you wanted an answer, you called on the student by name for his or her opinion. You expected us to think. I liked it when you sat

on top of your desk with your legs under you.”

Her sister told me that Mr. Wright, the assistant principal, called them into his office to give them the benefit of his wisdom. He strongly suggested they not accept dates from older boys. “It will make the older girls jealous.”

“Did you follow his counsel?” I asked. They both laughed with their infectious grins.

“One day we both sluffed school and were called into the office. I lied and my sister told the truth and I got into real trouble.”

Alice Had Brains and Beauty “I was good at rote memory and always did well on tests. I never found it difficult to memorize information. I would take your arguments home and discuss them with my father. This helped me become very close to my father because I would talk about the stuff he was interested in. I learned that you were proud of your country because occasionally you would have tears in your eyes when talking about America.

“You asked us near the end of the school year, ‘Would any of you like me to tell you about yourself, or what I think of you?’ At first we were kind of timid and you would tell both the good and the bad. I respected your opinions

enough that I wanted to know your erspective. I do not remember all you said specifically, but I do remember coming away feeling good about myself. You did say I was an attractive girl. I knew I was not going to be a beauty queen, but I profited from the exchange.”

Alice could have been a beauty queen in my book. She had dark hair,and always had a smile on her face. Her laugh was quiet and respectful. When she asked a question it was with a real desire to know. Her questions were thought-provoking, the kind of questions that helps the teacher to learn and to

grow.

I remember receiving a letter from her after graduation. She was employed for the summer as a counselor for girls at a summer camp. As will happen in most camps, girls in one cabin may try to make life difficult for girls in

another cabin. It was so. The neighbors put grape nuts in the girls’ beds, and the next day the girls under Alice’s tutelage wanted to retaliate. She reported in her letter something I had said in class, “If you want to

make your enemy really miserable, do kind things for him he does not expect.” She convinced the girls to follow her counsel and sure enough they were maligned again. A second time they took some kind of a treat to their wayward neighbors, and the next night the recalcitrant girls were over to their cabin in tears. The two groups became the closest of friends.

America - Ethnic/Racial Differences

Much of the curriculum I created was centered on racial and ethnic issues in America. Newspapers and TV news were filled daily with problems related to racial injustice. The riots which started in Watts, California, spread to cities across the United States. The murder of Martin Luther King was another

tragedy. I expanded the classroom coverage to open student eyes to La Raza, and conomic injustice. American Indians’ and Asian Americans’ experiences were also added to the study in my classroom. Many individuals were brought to class to share with the students their tragic experiences. There were times when students left the classroom in tears.

“Your class required us to have opinions. We couldn’t just not have an opinion. Once we identified what we believed, we were required to defend our point of view. This helped me to deal with other people in my life.”

President Mark

He was six feet two inches tall and very good at both basketball and football. Mark was handsome, affable, and a good student. He had a memory of much of what happened in class.

“Once in class you told us that anyone who could name the first four amendments to the Constitution got an ‘A’ for the semester. I had studied the amendments in student government and was excited to get my assurance of an ‘A’.

“It seemed that everything you taught us you made it apply directly to our lives. You were always challenging us. It was in your class that I became a reader. I remember reading The Good Earth, 1984, Brave New World, and Animal Farm. The books had an impact on my thinking. Whenever you asked a question and we answered, you were rarely through. It was always followed with, ‘Why do you feel that way or what do you make of it?’ We had to learn to defend what we believed.

“You knew how to test us about reading a book. It was near impossible for anyone to get away with credit for an unread book. We had oral tests with groups of kids and it helped us to learn to cooperate. If you had a written test it ordinarily was an essay test. You taught us how to read a newspaper. Most of the news articles have the essence of the article in the first two paragraphs. You read

that much and decided if you want to read the rest. “When I broke my wrist you came to my home to be sure that I was able to get my work assignments from school.

“You had a conversation with me in the gym at the end of the school. You told me what you saw in me in terms of my strengths and weaknesses. You told me that I did not realize my own potential and it was up to me to go find out what I could do. Bottom line was, ‘Go after it.’ It was helpful!

“I got even better acquainted with you after graduation and never realized your spiritual dimensions while my teacher at school.

“You and Dan Jones had a steak fry for the seniors at Mueller Park the last week of school. You both cared about students.

Mark’s father was a butcher and a friend. I had lots of steak fries for students and he was a great guy to give me the very best price, because he knew what was really happening.

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