Mrs. Frances Landrum taught me English in the seventh and eighth grades. She was short, pleasingly plump (as we used to say), and gray-headed. Photos of Laura Ingalls Wilder taken after she began writing the Little House books remind me of Mrs. Landrum. I guess we learned some literature, but I don’t remember that at all. It was grammar, grammar, and more grammar–diagramming sentences on the chalkboard and things like that.
In those days, teachers stood at the front of the classroom and taught. I can see her now rising up on her toes and putting her fingers together.
Long before after-school classes and school-run day care, several of us girls stayed after school one day a week for Mrs. Landrum’s craft class. One Saturday I went with her to a hobby shop in Nashville.
Twice we did grape crafts. At home we heated clear glass marbles in the oven and then dropped them into ice water so that they would crackle on the inside. Mrs. Landrum taught us how to glue the marbles to brown beer bottles, arranging them so that they looked like a grape cluster. She supplied the beer bottles. I have forgotten where she got them, but I am confident they didn’t come out of her refrigerator.
Another time we attached large, green acrylic balls to a piece of driftwood, making a giant grape cluster. I gave mine to Mother and she kept it in our living room. I saw a similar one the other day in a display of antiques at a sandwich shop.
We learned life lessons in addition to English at the feet of Mrs. Landrum. It’s funny what kids remember, but two lessons stand out to me. Several classmates and I went to church with Mrs. Landrum. One day in class she told us that we shouldn’t think she was asleep just because her eyes were closed at church. She wanted us to know that she did that to concentrate.
I only remember getting into trouble in school two times. The first time I was in first grade. My other vivid memory of one of Mrs. Landrum’s life lessons came the second time I got into trouble. One of my friends told me that Mrs. Landrum criticized my aunt Emily who was a grade ahead of me. When I got in English class that day, I gave Mrs. Landrum a dirty look. She had me step out into the hall and explain why I had done that.
Mrs. Landrum was strict and we always knew who was in charge of our class, but as I stood with my teacher in the hall that day, she listened to me, interviewed the tattler, and didn’t punish me at all. I knew I had been wrong and I appreciated her willingness to hear me and make me feel respected.
In 1981, before our family stopped participating in Halloween, I took two-year old John trick or treating with some of my cousins. We stopped at Mrs. Landrum’s house. She was so happy we came.
Mrs. Landrum was an excellent teacher. She made us feel safe by being the adult in charge. She imparted knowledge. She taught us how to live. She had fun with us. She listened.
Homeschooling moms don’t need to stand in front of a room and write on a chalkboard to exude confidence, but they do need to have confidence. It is easy to doubt ourselves, and when we do, our children feel uneasy.
Be strong and let your heart take courage,
All you who hope in the Lord.