Where Are You, Miss Landers?

By NORMAN M. COVERT

If you are a third grader about to start school you may not have identified her, but you hope Miss Landers is at the chalkboard when you arrive. I don’t know the odds of this happening, but would like to think that your chances are pretty good.

Of course, Miss Alice Landers (portrayed by the late Sue Randall), not Ms., not Alice, but Miss Landers the teacher, was the smiling and warm face and personality that saved Theodore (Beaver) Cleaver from a “fate worse than death.” He was entering the third grade at Grant Ave. Grammar School in the popular late ‘50s television show “Leave It to Beaver.”

Miss Landers (Sue Randall) meets her third graders at Grant Ave school.

It is worth noting that children today are still exposed to the long-running show featuring Jerry Mathers in the title role. Miss Landers is there and we still love her. The show is on a number of cable channels, sharing space with “I Love Lucy,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and others in the half-hour genre that showed America in what many think was an innocent but wonderful era.

You know of course that Miss Landers taught “Theodore” through the fifth grade when she broke his heart, announcing her engagement to be married. Grant Ave. Grammar School was never the same.

Every day I am bombarded on FACEBOOK with local discussion, pro and con, angry and clinical over the state of education. They beat up on curriculum, text books, budgets, an apparently dysfunctional and “devious” school board and a superintendent, who is trying to make a positive impact with a skeptical audience. It may be true that the locals just don’t like out-of-towners, a notion with which I disagree.

It does, however seem that the ideologues on both sides have gone off into an empty arena and drawn weapons, slinging arrows and cutting remarks that don’t resonate with many, especially Third Graders.

The real concern, as noted above, is about who will manifest him/herself as your teacher.

Of course, schools are quite different than the environment within Grant Ave. Grammar School, which was a virtual clone of my Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, three short blocks from our home in Newport News, Va.

I admit to still having a dislike for my first grade teacher. I fell in love with my second grade teacher and was an eager student of third grade teacher, Mrs. Nelson. She wasn’t Miss Landers, but more like, perhaps, the unseen, but obviously mature Miss Othmar in the PEANUTS™ cartoon. Her son, Lloyd, was my age and a pal on the playground.

One of Mrs. Nelson’s influences was the wonder of nature. She introduced me to Hermit crabs in the classroom terrarium. What a thrill it was to realize “our” crab had tossed away the old shell and moved into a larger “home” with which we had tempted it.

Beaver Cleaver (left, second desk) and friends meet teacher Miss Landers. (Studio screen still)

These days we care for three hermit crabs for my third grade grandson. It isn’t an exciting venture. They just lie there, the good thing being they don’t have to be taken for a walk.

I should say how lucky I am that when I was registered for first grade; it was in the three-story early 20th century construction standard, an imposing edifice cloned throughout the city for other neighborhood schools. I started in the all-new facility; a plus for me was that 1948 was the first year boys were no longer wearing knickers!

Our eight- and nine-year-old boys and girls will spend this school year locked in a classroom with a teacher who can make or break their thirst for formal education. This year can be the moment that influences an educational journey filled with wonder, excitement and the tools of a happy, successful life.

Teachers are the key to education. Unions, money and salary raises don’t make them better teachers. They either have “IT” or they don’t. These special teachers are worth whatever we can afford to pay them!

Now if the various departments of “education,” the National Education Association (NEA) and its affiliates and the dysfunctional school boards would get out of the way, perhaps we can attract more of the Miss Landers teachers.

More immediate though is to find out Friday at the Open House whether my grandson’s third grade teacher displays the “IT” to make this a good year. Would that he can establish a bond as he did with his first grade teacher. She earned his love and respect and she appreciated the challenge of sharing learning with him.

Fingers crossed? Ready, set, go!©2012 Norman M. Covert

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This appeared in its original form at www.thetentacle.com and is used with permission of the author and The OCtopus, LLC.

 

You may contact Norm at nmcovert@thecovertletter.com or nmcovert77@aol.com