Dear Mrs. Harolds,
I may have been in 3rd grade with a fledgling worldview and a tiny stature, but if there was one thing I understood, it was justice.
Justice (and, incidentally, righteous indignation) were bred into every last molecule in my stubborn, pint-sized being. Thus, even though children often unwittingly grant adults unbridled authority and unquestioning amnesty, I knew on that gray day in the middle of November that you were being unfair.
There was precedent for said unfairness. I had a nervous habit (and still do, actually) of picking at my lips, which were always dry for some reason. One day you walked by and roughly pushed my arm down while I was standing in line, and I remember the shock of the physical correction. In the confusing moments that followed, I tried to evaluate whether or not that was an appropriate action for a teacher to take. I finally decided that it most certainly was not.
There was also that time when Logan stole my troll doll pencil. He’d been eying it all day while Chris and I used it to produce elaborate troll doll plays. When it went missing, I confronted him and, while he looked decidedly uneasy, he denied any knowledge of its whereabouts. When I informed you of this, fully trusting that you would remedy the situation because that’s what adults are supposed to do, you shrugged. “If he says he doesn’t have it,” you said, “there’s nothing I can do about it.”
My tiny heart burned with indignation. There was sure something I could do about it if you wouldn’t intervene! I marched right over and yanked Logan’s bookbag open before he even had a chance to protest. There, looking happily up at me from on top of a social studies book, was my troll doll pencil. I grabbed it and stalked away as you watched in surprise.
But this was a wholly different situation. This time, you were implicitly criticizing my dad. Perhaps you didn’t know this about me, but that’s one of the last things you want to do in my presence.
It all started with that chocolate rice cereal treat. It was snack time at school, so I pulled the treat from my bookbag and began to tear open the foil wrapper around it. I’d been bringing the cereal treats for my snack ever since my tapioca pudding cups had, without warning, become inexplicably gross to me. But for some reason on this day, my cereal treat was like a magnet for your keen eyes. You strode over to me before I’d even taken a bite.
“You can’t eat that for snack time. Snack time is for healthy snacks.” I looked around at others’ crackers and chips, confused as to why my snack alone warranted this criticism (indeed, if I’d known what I know now, I’d have retorted that crackers are about as worthless for you and a lot less fun).
“Well, this is what my dad bought for me for snack time,” I responded, unsure of how to proceed.
“You can’t eat them. Don’t bring them anymore.” I thought of the box of cereal treats sitting at home designated for my snack time. I thought of my parents’ slim budget. I thought of how hard they both worked to provide for our huge family. You didn’t know it, Mrs. Harolds, but you’d just planted the seed of a lifelong grudge.
I didn’t throw the cereal treat at you or throw a crying fit, although my 3rd grade brain probably considered both of those options. Instead, I mourned about it all day and, with considerable angst, revealed to my parents that night that I couldn’t bring cereal treats anymore. Lest you feel victorious about that fact, however, I’d like to remind you that I’m sitting here 20 years later writing a vindictive description of you for the amusement of the general public. For good measure, I may even tell folks about your nose hairs and the time you threw whiteboard markers at us.
Not only that, but I’m doing all of this in a post that shares a recipe for some indulgent, sugary, chocolatey, salty-and-sweet cereal treats. Some particularly marshmallowy ones, even.
I don’t know, but I’d say I had the last laugh.
P.S. Or, I don’t know, maybe the fact that I’m still annoyed at you 20 years later does mean you win. Grr.
And another P.S. to my readers: Have you ever had an unfair teacher? Here’s your space to vent! Unless you’re one of my students, in which case, go do your homework.
Chocolate & Pretzel Cereal Treats
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from Kellogg’s
Yield: about 12 bars
These are cereal treats on steroids! You can mix any kind of cereal you like, but here I’ve chosen to combine chocolate and plain rice cereals. The addition of salty pretzels and gooey chocolate chips make these treats indulgent and delicious. As a bonus, they’re super easy to make!
1/4 cup butter
4 cups miniature marshmallows or 1 package (10 ounces) large marshmallows
2 cups chocolate rice cereal
2 cups plain rice cereal
2 cups pretzel wheels (broken into pieces, but not pulverized), plus whole pretzels for topping
3/4 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips
Spray a 13 x 9-inch pan with cooking spray and set it aside. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir in the marshmallows (I use a spatula coated with cooking spray) until they’re completely melted and remove the pan from the heat.
Add the cereal, pretzel pieces, and chocolate chips and stir until they’re thoroughly coated. Pour the mixture out into your prepared pan. Use a sheet of wax paper to press the mixture into an even layer in your pan. Quickly press whole pretzels in rows all along the surface of the bars.
Let the treats cool completely (and maybe even drizzle some melted chocolate over them!) and then cut into squares to serve. The treats can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for two days, or can be frozen (separated by wax paper) for up to 6 weeks.
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RachelMarch 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm (11 years ago)
My childhood teachers were fantastic. University, however, was a different matter. I got a B on a literacy assignment because she didn’t like how I wrote my As…and because I left the “u” out of color. Once. And she KNOWS that I grew up with American spelling. But honestly. It is university. Where in the world does handwriting come in to it??
Your note to your own students had me laughing until I cried. That is exactly the type of thing I would do to MY students. And plan to, as of next year, when I have my own students. 😀
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 21, 2012 at 2:42 am (11 years ago)
So exciting! What will you be teaching next year?
I totally have a letter I could write to one of my college profs as well (LOL — I agree with you about handwriting!), but most of my teachers really were fantastic 🙂
JoanneMarch 21, 2012 at 1:08 am (11 years ago)
This teacher sounds AWFUL. I hate her. Just saying.
But you definitely showed her with these treats! And I say you definitely win. Because she’s probably old and alone somewhere…and you are adorable and fabulous!
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 21, 2012 at 2:43 am (11 years ago)
Why thank ya 😉 She really was…interesting. And even though I say I recognized it, I DID still think it must be within the bounds of reasonable somehow that I wasn’t seeing — only now do I realize she really was inappropriate in some ways!
KatieMarch 21, 2012 at 2:30 am (11 years ago)
What a stressful year. I’m glad that you can have some positive memories associated with these treats still!
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 21, 2012 at 2:43 am (11 years ago)
Thanks Katie! I definitely do 🙂
BeckyMarch 21, 2012 at 3:07 am (11 years ago)
I had a first-grade teacher named Mrs. Simmons who was finishing her career when I was her student. We heard stories about how she pulled a kid to the principal’s office by his ear once. She always kept the parents coming to field trips outside the room until she’d given us a full preemptive yelling at, and then she’d let our Mommies and Daddies in with a big smile on her face like she’d just given us all individual hugs and lollipops.
Mrs. Simmons put us at tables based on our reading abilities and then put marbles in a jar every time someone at a table got the right answer to questions about dinosaurs or what have you. Our table won every marble-jar-filling contest and we were rewarded with ice cream parties that none of our friends at the other tables (because we were all friends in 1st grade) were invited to attend. They just had to sit there all illiterate and watch us readers eat our ice cream with those wooden stick spoons. I didn’t even like my tiny cup of chocolate ice cream, because like you, Julie, my sense of justice was acute at a young age.
Mrs. Simmons was mean to her assistant, Mrs. Hollingsworth (whom we all loved dearly, of course). She also had this large smiley face on a wall just beyond the bookshelves that we would have to stand in front of and “confess” to if we violated any of the classroom rules. We had to go talk to the face. Can you believe that?! What kind of sick joke is that? “Uh, Mr. Smiley (or whatever she called him), I spoke without raising my hand. Forgive me, O Great and Grinning One.”
But the biggest embarrassment came when my working mom was suckered by the PTA into planning the woman’s retirement party. I learned about this travesty when my mom came to school unexpectedly one day for the planning. We were in music working on “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” (one of the lesser tunes in the “Mary Poppins” songbook) when my mom told me about it. ( To this day, I always cut that movie off around the time the dad runs out of the bank to go see his kids.) We all had to sign a card that said “We’ll miss you, Mrs. Simmons!” I bet our friends at the less-than-fully-literate tables didn’t even know what they were signing their names to that day. And I bet she ate all those ignorant accolades up, too.
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 21, 2012 at 3:12 am (11 years ago)
OH my gosh, Becky!! She’s definitely in the Bad Teachers Hall of Fame!! I can’t even believe the Mr. Smiley thing. CANNOT believe it.
BeckyMarch 21, 2012 at 3:15 am (11 years ago)
Yeah, it’s creepy. I think by that point in her career she had definitely given away too many of her marbles.
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 21, 2012 at 3:26 am (11 years ago)
Sure sounds like it! Good grief!
KellyMarch 21, 2012 at 6:25 am (11 years ago)
My 3rd from (equiv to 8th grade) teacher chastised me for wearing my hair in a ponytail every day. My mother gave me free reign at 13 to comb my hair every day and putting it in a ponytail was perfect for me. I guess she didn’t like ponytails.
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 22, 2012 at 12:28 am (11 years ago)
Seriously? Surely she had more important things to think about?! LOL. Guess hairstyles felt very important to her.
Lauren at Keep It SweetMarch 21, 2012 at 10:18 am (11 years ago)
I would so still be annoyed 20 years later!
In 7th grade I had a teacher who made me get down on my knees (!!!) and wipe the dust off her pants because she had walked by me when my foot is up… will never forget that.
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 22, 2012 at 12:27 am (11 years ago)
You. are. kidding. That’s absolutely bonkers!
AdrienneMarch 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm (11 years ago)
Another story of injustice from my childhood…
Ms. Chunn was amazing. She was more fun than my school typically let through the front doors. She read to us after lunch every day, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimm is still one of my favorite books 🙂 She had a reward system based on marbles, but she only moved a marble from one jar to another when the entire class was behaving well – and when the whole jar of marbles had been transferred, the entire class got a pizza party or ice cream party! Nobody wanted to be the reason the class didn’t get a marble, and I’m guessing we became the most disciplined group of 3rd graders ever. We also happened to learn a lot and really enjoy class.
So where’s the injustice, you ask? They FIRED her after one year! Those reward systems that actually worked didn’t fit in with the other teachers’ attempts to terrorize you with demerits, lines (yes, lines!), writing out multiplication tables or pages of the dictionary, lining up on outside the principal’s office with your nose to the wall, etc. And like you, Julie, it’s only now when I realize how archaic and inappropriate that system of discipline was.
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 22, 2012 at 12:26 am (11 years ago)
That is SO sad, Adrienne! I used a very similar classroom management system at my old job (at my current school, my classes come self-managed, which is amazing!) and can honestly say kids wanted to perform well — and encouraged each OTHER to perform well — when given that positive incentive! It was fun to play the game and they got to see that it FEELS GOOD TO BE GOOD. Bravo to Ms. Chunn, and I hope she’s still in a classroom somewhere!
YasmineMarch 21, 2012 at 11:18 pm (11 years ago)
Hi Ms.Ruble, I love your story and blog. Im only writing this comment because I finished our homework. Your an awesome teacher and spelling bee trainer! From, Student of Ms.Ruble
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 22, 2012 at 12:25 am (11 years ago)
Aw, thanks Yasmine! I think you’re an awesome student and spelling bee champ! Thanks for not giving away how evil I *really* am! 😉
JessicaMarch 22, 2012 at 4:44 am (11 years ago)
Oh man! My heart was just breaking as I read that letter. How mean! I’m glad the experience didnt ruin your taste for cereal treats though. These look delicious.
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm (11 years ago)
Aw, thanks Jessica! I like to think it made me stronger (and hopefully a better teacher)!
Jenny @ BAKEMarch 22, 2012 at 1:26 pm (11 years ago)
I had a teacher so scary when I was 5 that when I didn’t want to eat my bruised banana I hid it in the back of my desk drawer and my parents had to be called in a week later to clean it up! I still cringe when I see bananas! These treats look delicious! I can’t wait to have a go at them!
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm (11 years ago)
Awwww, Jenny, that’s so sad!! I’m not a fan of plain bananas either (love ’em in baked goods, though), but thankfully not because of a scary childhood teacher!
AnnaMarch 22, 2012 at 9:17 pm (11 years ago)
I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve never had a teacher as atrocious as some of the ones described here. That being said, I can’t ever seem to forget the one time in kindergarten when a certain Mrs. Johnson told me I was being sassy for wanting to drink two Danimals at recess.
I think the reason why it offended me so was because I didn’t know what sassy meant and assumed the worst… In any case, now whenever I think of my younger years I remember angrily thinking, “No, Mrs. Johnson, you’re the sassy one!”
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 22, 2012 at 9:45 pm (11 years ago)
LOL!! I love that story, Anna!
BeckaMarch 23, 2012 at 3:28 pm (11 years ago)
Mrs. Blanton, my first grade teacher, takes the cake – literally. I don’t know why, but the woman had it out from me from the day I arrived in her classroom, and she poisoned my third grade teacher against me, too, which almost got me held back! The biggest moment of injustice I recall was on my birthday, when I brought in ice-cream cone cupcakes for snack. The snack-bringer was responsible for passing out the snacks, and there were two rules:
1. Start with the desk nearest the right-hand side of the chalkboard;
2. Give yourself the snack last.
Well, my desk *was* the desk nearest the right-hand side of the chalkboard! I stood by my desk, frozen in fear, trying to decide which rule to break. Finally I decided to give myself the WORST cupcake in the box, the one that was lopsided and kind of crushed, and give it to myself and then give the good cupcakes to the other students. Nice solution, right? I put that cupcake on my desk and then proceeded with the distribution. (I was five! Skipping my desk and going back did not occur to me.)
When I had finished, Mrs. Blanton grabbed me by the arm, pulled me to the front of the room, and wrote “SELFISH” on the board over my head. She gave me a long lecture about how even on my birthday I had to be polite, and so I would NOT be allowed to eat my cupcake because I was a Bad Girl. (I caught her eating it later – meaning she got two cupcakes, because my mom had made a special one for her, too!) I had to stand at the front of the room while the rest of the kids ate their cupcakes. She makes me mad to this day! In fact, thinking about it, I’m going to make a WHOLE BATCH of ice cream cone cupcakes JUST FOR ME.
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 24, 2012 at 12:09 am (11 years ago)
Becka, you have got to be kidding! That is downright abusive!! I so hope she’s not still terrorizing first graders, and HOW I hope you will seriously make yourself some ice cream cone cupcakes! You deserve it after all that!
Maggie @ A Bitchin' KitchenMarch 24, 2012 at 1:04 am (11 years ago)
Oh my gosh! This made me angry just reading it. My 3rd grade teacher was pretty awful too, but not nearly as bad as yours!
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 24, 2012 at 11:53 am (11 years ago)
Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with an abundance of amazing teachers too, so I guess it all evens out. LOL.
EmilyMarch 24, 2012 at 5:40 am (11 years ago)
Your story and the stories in the comments have reminded me just how much power I have as a teacher. When I have a bad day and lose my patience with a student, I always feel horrible, and generally apologize to the student when it’s warranted. I do feel that even in my worst moments, I don’t come close to some of the stories shared here!
I think my worst experience was when I asked my 7th grade science teacher a question and she refused to answer it, saying I was smart enough to figure it out on my own, even after I asked again for a little guidance. I disgustedly returned to my seat, and asked the student who shared my table to go ask the exact. same. question. And she answered it! I also had a college oral communications prof who weighted a group project so heavily that our group grade took me down to a B in the class. I could tell he took great pleasure in giving lots of students Bs and Cs in his general education class…
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 24, 2012 at 11:57 am (11 years ago)
I had a college prof like that — who seemed determined to give Cs. I’d never gotten a C on a paper in my life, and I turned in a very thoughtful feminist reading of an historic text we were looking at and she slapped a C on it. I felt like that was unwarranted and wanted to know her explanation, and that was the worst part — she COULD NOT explain to me why the paper deserved a C. She fumbled around and as best as I could tell, it was just that she really hadn’t wanted a critical reading of the text (I was an English major, so this was the norm for me). Well — then don’t you think you should clarify the assignment to explain what the crap you do want?! LOL. I’m obviously still bitter. She did not change the grade despite her inability to justify it to me.
You’re so right that these stories inspire us to hold up a mirror and check ourselves. For instance, I can think of MANY times when I’ve encouraged students to figure something out on their own, and now I wonder if on one of my more grumpy days, they might’ve felt like you in your science class! We just have to constantly examine ourselves and remember we’re dealing with other human beings.
DeannaMarch 28, 2012 at 5:48 pm (11 years ago)
I had a teacher who told me I didn’t like the Tortilla Curtain because I’m white. Um…no. It was not the book I wanted to read because its a style I generally dislike and I didn’t relate to the book in anyway. Of course, this was during my high school years so I wasn’t going to tell the principal, but another teacher overheard me telling someone what he’d said and told the principal for me. I also had a teacher in middle school who gave me detention for talking when I’d been sitting quietly reading. Everyone around me had been talking and they told her I was being quiet but she gave it to me anyways. I was so happy when she went out on maternity leave.
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 29, 2012 at 2:11 am (11 years ago)
Aw, I hate that! Reminds me of when my 3rd grade teacher (yes, same as above!) was trying to quiet everyone down at playtime. I was playing (duh!) and didn’t hear her, so I said one more thing and she yelled at me as though I’d just kicked someone! I was shocked and embarrassed.
lynn @ the actor's dietMarch 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm (11 years ago)
just stumbled upon your site after finding you on twitter (lauren is our connector) and wow i am salivating! even though i’m not a baker, these recipes inspire me to get the ovens going…
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 30, 2012 at 7:10 pm (11 years ago)
MelissaMarch 31, 2012 at 8:53 am (11 years ago)
I had a teacher who threw the first Harry Potter book someone brought for ‘fun reading’ in the trash because it was promoting satanism! I also had a teacher who wanted to be friends with her favorite students, and gave completely undeserving grades to anyone else in class. The list goes on! For every horrible teacher, though, there was another good one who would give a subtle shake of the head, as if to say, “that b**** is crazy.” And by the way — if you get to vent your frustration, and she has to use bad logic to be mean to kids in order to do that, you DEFINITELY win.
Julie @ Willow Bird BakingMarch 31, 2012 at 11:25 am (11 years ago)
Oh man, Melissa, you had some doozies! I agree that the good teachers out there AT LEAST balance out, if not outweigh, the bad ones! 🙂
Angela @ The Dancer BakesApril 6, 2012 at 2:09 am (11 years ago)
There’s something about third grade teachers, I guess – mine was a horror, too! Ms. Tomaszewski was fresh out of college and student teaching and got thrown into the job because the former third grade teacher (the loveliest woman alive) was pregnant and got put on bedrest. She didn’t teach us much at all – we were supposed to learn cursive writing and we didn’t even start it till 2 months after the other 3rd grade classes started! I was a really advanced reader for my age, too, and got really bored in her class, so at my mom’s request the head of the GT program started pulling me out for challenging reading and spelling. I had a different spelling list than the rest of my class, and for some reason that really annoyed Ms. Tomaszewski! For the rest of the year, she treated me horribly. She’d get really snippy or yell at me whenever I asked her a question and would ignore anything and everything I did well. For years after that, I was terrified to talk to my teachers about anything!