Newlywed Love (#28)

February 3, 1970

Connecting with my 1st graders each morning was always uplifting, and I’d gotten to know them well. We had an open house coming up during which I could get acquainted with their parents, and though it involved lots of preparation and made for a long day, I was looking forward to it. I was working hard to have something positive to say that night about each student — even the “problem children.”

Hoping my kids were progressing academically and also relating well to each other, I wanted each parent to be proud of their own child.

Spelling listHowever, one afternoon just before the open house, we were playing a spelling game in class when a boy named Bobby cheated to win it. Another child exposed him, and there was a class uproar over it. I told him to stay after school so we could talk about it, hoping that by then I could figure out what to do.

Bobby agreed, but when the bell rang, he raced out and sprinted across the front lawn. Of course the other children, wanting justice, alerted me. “Bobby’s running away!”

I sprinted out after him, catching him by his coat. “Remember about our talk?” I said.

“I know,” he said, looking at the snowy ground.

The two of us trudged back into school, and I explained the serious nature of cheating, hoping it was sinking in.

A teacher's letter“So…. what do you think we should do about this?”

I was surprised when he said, “I think…. write a note to my mom and tell her.”

He stood next to me, watching me write. When I was done, I folded the paper, and asked him to take it to his mother. He said he would.

But then I decided to add one more sentence: “Please sign this note and return it with Bobby so I know you received it.” I drew a line and put an X in front of it, showing him I wanted his mother to put her name there. His brow furrowed, but he pocketed the note and said goodbye.

The next morning Bobby walked in with a smile, handing me my signed note as well as 3 pages written by his mother. “She’s not mad,” he said.

His mother’s note agreed that cheating was a big deal. She’d had a serious talk with Bobby, telling him that if it happened again, “stronger action would be applied.”

She wrote that Bobby wanted me to be proud of him, and that he had run away because he knew he’d disappointed me. She explained that the source of his bad behavior might have been baby brother Billy. Bobby was jealous of Billy getting to stay home with her all day, saying it wasn’t fair.

A mother's letter.

There was sibling rivalry with lots of teasing and follow-up discipline, the stress of which was “spilling over on the other members of the family.” And she thanked me for “taking the time to talk to Bobby and to let her know the problem.”

A mother's letter

I decided to give Bobby extra attention — starting with praising him for delivering my note to his mother and bringing hers back to me. In the end, I felt like the whole incident had worked out well.

That afternoon it occurred to me that in many respects I was like a mother-away-from-home for my young students, and I wondered if some day I might get to be a real mother. If so, I was fairly sure the job would be challenging, and I hoped I would be up to it.

“To discipline a child produces wisdom.” (Proverbs 29:15)

Newlywed Love (#23)

January 23, 1970

Nate and I were both energized over the prospect of getting the second car we needed, and I looked forward to seeing my folks. Talking at length about what I should look for when Dad and I went shopping, we agreed it should be something economical but with a little “cool”…. if possible.

Before that exciting weekend, however, I had to meet with Principal Scarce about my teacher evaluation. The day he had visited my classroom, the children had been full of zip, talking over each other and refusing to act in orderly ways. I watched him write things down and wondered if those were marks against me.


There had been a skirmish in the cloakroom that day, and Mr. Scarce had volunteered to settle it. By “settle it” he meant bring the guilty parties to me. In 10 seconds he appeared with a firm grip on the shoulders of two boys. Waiting for me to dish out the discipline, he frowned when I told the boys we would talk about it after the principal’s visit.

As Mr. Scarce sat in the back of the room, I saw my students (and myself) through different eyes – highly critical ones. Why was I so loosey-goosey? Why wasn’t I a better disciplinarian? I beat myself up for not having taught them to take turns better and to sit quietly when I was talking. And why hadn’t I made a seating chart rather than letting the kids sit anywhere?

But his classroom visit was a done deal now.

Evaluation (front).As I arrived at his office, he told me he’d judged me on 20 different points and then summarized it with a numerical grade, 1-5 — 1 being superior, 5 being poor. I decided the best approach during the conference would be for me to say as little as possible.

We sat down with his grading sheet, and I was relieved to see he’d circled quite a few number 1’s. I did get a 3, though, indicating I wasn’t “punctual and regular in the performance of duty.” That may have been because Linda, Judy, and I often came racing into school at the last minute, thanks to our long commute and unpredictable snowstorms.

He also thought I could use tests and test results better and become more familiar with my students through their cumulative records. I didn’t think first graders had had much time to accumulate records, but I nodded and said nothing. As for a seating chart, I came out ahead on that one. He left the line blank.

Evaluation (back)He also said I wasn’t the greatest at cooperating with attempts to adjust curriculum through experimentation. What he didn’t know was that every day was an experiment. My students were lucky to be learning anything from such an inexperienced teacher. Tempted to make that joke, I bit my lip and stayed quiet.

When Mr. Scarce flipped over the evaluation page, he read me what he’d written: “Mrs. Nyman is doing a fine job in her assignment. Pupil growth is evident. She maintains a classroom that is an exciting place to be. Her pupils are eager to learn and they are progressing well.”

And then he pointed to his summary grade. “I gave you a 1,” he said. I could have hugged him.

It was a pleasure to sign the form, and I was grateful.

“…. in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Newlywed Love (#18)

January 5, 1970

On January 5th, both Nate and I started back to school, and it wasn’t easy shifting away from our tranquil time together at the apartment. But we both admitted the reason it had been so special was that we knew it couldn’t last. After thanking God for our first month of marriage, we moved back into the world of law school and 1st grade.

1st gradeWhen the horn beeped for me in front of our apartment building that Monday morning, it was still dark out. But I scampered down the steps, eager to see my driving buddies, and was glad to jump into Judy’s warm car on a bitter cold day. After we’d picked up Linda for our 40 mile commute, we had fun sharing all that had happened over our Christmas breaks.

In our classrooms, the children wanted to do the same. My students and I all laughed as they competed to be heard, stretching their hands high in the air with gusto. “Oooo! Me! Me! Choose me!”

Show and Tell was dominated by new toys and tales of joyful holiday adventures, and I was reminded again how much fun it was to have so many children in my life. Their joy was contagious, and by the 3:00 bell, I was feeling grateful for such a pleasurable job.

Principal Scarce poked his head into my classroom that Monday afternoon, letting me know he was in the process of scheduling teacher evaluations. Mine, he said, would be the following week. “How does that work?” I said.

He told me he would arrive unannounced to my room, observe my teaching for a while, then fill out a form rating me. He would study my lesson plan book, inspect our room (and cloak room), and chat with the children.


Following that observation day, he would arrange for a one-on-one meeting to go over the results. I would sign and date the form, as would he, and the results would go into my permanent file.

This was new to me – and sounded like a threat. The Chicago Public Schools hadn’t evaluated us at all, though I had to remind myself they were in emergency mode when I began teaching. As they scrambled to find enough classrooms and put an adult in charge of each one, my guess is they intended to do evaluations but other things pressed harder.

When I got home that evening, I told Nate about the evaluations. The whole thing was unnerving, especially since I still wasn’t officially certified as a teacher. Both Judy and Linda had majored in education, and their paperwork was in order. Just having a degree in literature, I was the only teacher at McKinley on probationary status.

Since Nate had one more year of law school, I would need permission to teach again. If I couldn’t teach, what then? What other job could possibly support us?

As Nate and I talked it over, he spoke words of praise about how much the children loved me, but nothing he said could talk me down from my fears. Surely Mr. Scarce hadn’t forgotten the day Judy, Linda, and I had decided teacher training sessions weren’t important enough to attend.

Of the 3 of us, though, I was the most expendable.

“[She] will not fear bad news; [her] heart is confident, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 112:7)