Those were the (school) days

By Lynn Moncus: QCS columnist

As you are well aware, all this woman from Ima has to do is to hear some conversations about the present and then to head into the past to recall the times that were and to feel ever more privileged to have grown up when and where I did.

Recently, several people have mentioned their college classes and have caused much gnashing of teeth while noting the differences between current happenings and those of more than 50 years ago.

For one thing, I rarely hear any affirmative remarks about the professors or even the notion of a little admiration. Recalling the many outstanding professors I had at New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in the early 1950s has given me a great deal of pleasure of late and has made me know more than ever how fortunate I was to have had such mentors who are remembered so fondly.

Of course, the college was small in those days, thus, giving us a chance to know our professors rather well and to have them show interest in our progress or lack thereof.

Who could have been in the English classes of Col. Alexander Chilton or Dr. Marion Hardman without knowing they were in the presence of great minds and real teachers? I can remember entering their classes for the first time and knowing for sure I had much work to do in order to make adequate grades or even to remain on campus.

Col. Chilton was not far from the age I am now but had that natural flare to appeal to any young student willing to learn.

He began the course in freshman composition by having us turn prose into poetry in order to learn the real discipline of playing with words and ideas as we placed them into the assigned forms. We spent many hours on each poem as we attempted to reach his standards and to try to gain his respect.

Later, I had numerous classes from Dr. Hardman and worked myself into many corners while trying to meet her demands. I would listen very carefully and take copious notes during her lectures, only to wind up in the ditch on some of her exams.

She knew I was a bit shy and decided to cure or kill that trait by calling on me regularly and announcing to everyone in hearing distance that she was going to the registrar’s office to change all my grades to “F’s” if I didn’t speak up. At first, I was so stunned that I couldn’t answer the questions even when I knew the answers but finally decided to grow up and fight back in order to be able to hold my head up in her classes.

After we became close friends and were teaching together on campus, she would remind me of those earlier times and cause me to try to stay in sight as I attempted to teach my classes. One of her last efforts at that came along when I was asked to write the history of the English Department and she told me I probably couldn’t do the job and should turn it over to someone else. That did it! When I handed her the finished copy and she said I had done well, we both collapsed into fits of laughter. She had won again!

Although I had a few professors who weren’t very interested in teaching, I was most fortunate to have many outstanding and demanding ones. Whether in English, history, chemistry, physics, or in any of the other required courses, I was given the opportunity to learn as much as possible and to respect great teachers. I was also able to tell each of them how very much I appreciated their efforts and to remain in touch with many of them throughout their lives.

I think I bored both my parents with glowing reports about those professors, but they had taught me to respect teachers and just listened to my ramblings as they had all through my earlier school years. I guess times really have changed and that is sad!