I am not sure why I think of some things, however, occasionally I remember something that happened a million years ago. Or so it seems.
This week for some reason, I happened to think of my fifth grade elementary school teacher. Her name was Miss Ammon. She was a wonderful teacher in many regards and taught me quite a bit or at least she tried.
As a fifth-grader, I looked at her as a very old woman. She might’ve been 50, I’m not sure. One of my friends joked and asked her, “Miss Ammon, how was Noah as a student?”
I am glad he asked and not me because the class was then introduced to her “Hickory Stick.” I say we, but it was my friend with the stupid question that was actually introduced to it.
After the incident, she told the class, “I have here in my hand the Board of Education which shall be applied to the seat of your learning when necessary.” Nobody even snickered, but left that alone.
Miss Ammon did not have a sense of humor. Everything was very serious to her and I do not remember ever seeing her even smile. She probably did, but that is not a memory that I have of her.
I remember the day that the government ruled against Bible reading and the Lord’s Prayer in school. Being young, I did not quite understand the significance of it. The next day in school Miss Ammon stood in front of the class with a hickory stick in her right hand. As she was smacking her left hand she said, “Let them come into my class and tell me I can’t read the Bible or say the Lord’s Prayer.”
Knowing her as we knew her then, she would have been very good on her word. In fact, when we were outside at recess (remember recess?) we all talked about how exciting it would be for them come into our class and face-off with our dear Miss Ammon. She is the only woman that could have gotten away with something like that. She was afraid of no one. Everyone was afraid of her; even the principal but that is another story.
Once I was to give a little oral report before the class and Miss Ammon called me up front and asked me if I was ready. I stupidly said, “I rehearsed this in my sleep last night.” Some of my friends snickered, but Miss Ammon said, “Well, I hope you can repeat it while you’re awake.” That was the only time I ever saw something close to a twinkle in her eyes. That was not the encouragement to put me in a positive position of presenting my little speech.
I well remember the day that my seat of learning was introduced to her Board of Education. I was chewing gum in class, and back then, you were not allowed to chew gum in class. I knew it, but for some reason I thought I could get away with it. When she saw me chewing the gum she said to me, “Get rid of that gum right now!”
I had forgotten I was chewing it because at that time that was a natural thing to do. She alarmed me and I turned to my left and spit the gum out on the floor. Then I laughed. It was a natural response for me and then I was introduced to the natural response of Miss Ammon.
She quietly turned around, went to the corner of the room and picked up her hickory stick. I could hear everybody in the class sighing. “Mr. Snyder,” she said in a very reverent tone, too reverent for me. “Will you please come to the front of the class?” I knew it was not a question. I knew it was a direct order from “the boss.”
To show how old she was, she was my father’s teacher when he was in grade school. Banking on that she said, “You tell your father about this and it will be repeated.” There in front of the class, I bent over on her command and received four swats of her hickory stick. She did not miss a lick.
I did not tell my father. He had a rule in our home that if you got a spanking in school you also got a spanking when you got home. This is the first time I am telling anyone about that episode.
Occasionally I feel a little tingle on the “seat of my learning” reminding me of Miss Ammon. I have not chewed gum since.
Many years later when I was an adult and had published several books, I took some to her and thanked her for teaching me to read and write.
We need more Miss Ammon’s in our school system today. Personally, I would like to see every politician bow before her and be initiated.
I’m not sure and I never asked, but I think her favorite verse was, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24).
At the time, I did not know how much Miss Ammon really loved her students. We learned a lot from her, and she is desperately needed in our school culture today.
Since 1997, Rev. James L. Snyder has written a weekly religion/humor column, “Out To Pastor,” syndicated to over 300 newspapers and many websites. The Rev. Snyder is an award winning author whose writings have appeared in more than eighty periodicals including GUIDEPOSTS. In Pursuit of God: The Life of A. W. Tozer, Snyder’s first book, won the Reader’s Choice Award in 1992 by Christianity Today. Snyder has authored and edited 30 books altogether.
James L. Snyder was given an honorary doctorate degree (Doctor of Letters) by Trinity College in Florida. His weekly humor column, “Out To Pastor,” is syndicated to more than 325 weekly newspapers.
Through 45 years of ministry, he and his wife Martha have been involved in three church-planting projects prior to their current ministry at the Family of God Fellowship in Ocala, Florida. The Snyders have three children and nine grandchildren and one great-grandson.