Dancing in the Fourth Grade

Mrs. Amos was my 4th grade teacher way back in 1973 and 1974 at the old Branson Elementary School. She had taught for many years and had buttoned up, white hair. She was not tall, a little stooped, but very sharp-minded and strict. I know we feared her, but also loved her. One moment she would be scolding you, and the next moment smiling with a twinkle in her eye. The picture is my 4th grade school picture. Thanks for the haircut, Mom!

At times I felt like I was Mrs. Amos’ favorite student. When we worked on our math tables, she would often pick me out to recite them as she moved her stick down the list. 1x7=7, 2x7=14, etc. I was always one of the quickest on the list. I got confident that Mrs. Amos could never get mad at me, until one day she was called out of the classroom by another teacher. She told us not to talk and work on our reading. As soon as she left the classroom I turned to a friend, maybe Mark Groves, to chat about our latest superhero stories we were writing. He was Joe Dude Groves, and I was Super Stone. Suddenly my head was jerked back by the ear from Mrs. Amos, with her face in my face yelling, “Didn’t I tell you not to talk?!” I almost wet my pants.

Mrs. Amos did something unique as a teacher. Every day after lunch we would take about 30 minutes and dance. That’s right. She taught us several dances. I remember vividly the Virginia Reel and the Highland Fling. On some occasions instead of dancing to music she would have us jump rope to music. That’s right--right in the middle of our classroom half of us would be attempting to jump rope to old music from her record player!

These were always awkward times for us fourth graders, but also a nice excuse to interact with girls, who were getting my attention. Sandy Harrison especially. I remember on one of our dance days, Mrs. Amos asked me to pick out a female partner for a dance. I pretended to do Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, pointing my finger around the classroom at all the girls, but “coincidentally” landing on Sandy. I remember the goosebumps when we held hands dancing, looking into each other’s eyes.

This bit of exercise and social interaction was good for us. I think Mrs. Amos was a genius of a teacher. While being strict and at times plain cranky, she taught us well, and cared about us. I had known Mrs. Amos before she was my teacher. She and her husband Roger lived down the road from us on Reno Springs next to Bear Creek. They often came and got tomatoes and strawberries from my parents. She was always smiling and kind as they talked. As a teacher, her demeanor shown more serious and straightforward, but underneath I saw that same kindness.

It's fun to look back at teachers like Mrs. Amos and realize, 50 years later, what a deep impact they make on your life. I learned discipline, confidence, and humility during my year with Mrs. Amos. She balanced grace and truth well.

I can still hear the scratchy record playing to the Virginia Reel, and us fourth graders prancing around awkwardly while holding hands.

I can still feel Sandy’s warm hands!

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