Friday, May 18, 2018

Annals of pedagogy

Henrietta Pastorfield is an English teacher at Calvin Coolidge High School in New York City. Her colleague Sylvia Barrett, writing to a friend from college, describes Miss Pastorfield as a teacher who “woos the kids by entertaining them, convinced that lessons must be fun, knowledge sugar-coated, and that teacher should be pal.”

There’s this testimony from a former student:

In Miss Pastorfeilds class I really enjoyed it we had these modren methods like Amature Hour and Gussing Games in rows with a scorekepper and to draw stick figures to show the different charactors in the different books and Speling Hospital and Puntuation Trafic and Sentence Baseball with prizes for all thats the way to really learn English.
And from the school newspaper, the Calvin Coolidge Clarion: “The teacher who makes lessons most like games: MISS HENRIETTA (‘PAL’) PASTORFIELD.” Yes, Punctuation Traffic and the like are team games.

I’ve been quoting from Bel Kaufman’s 1964 novel Up the Down Staircase. In the 1967 film adaptation, Miss Pastorfield explains her pedagogy in a faculty meeting:
“Kid them along, make it a game. l have a new one this year: Hospital Spelling. Misspelled words are the patients, and the kids are the doctors and the nurses.”
Which prompts rakish Paul Barringer to suggest Punctuation Sex: “l shudder to think what an exclamation point might mean.”

I remember standing in a hallway years ago, listening to a game of Punctuation Football underway in a college classroom. Yes, that too was a team game. I have sometimes wondered if the instructor had read or seen Up the Down Staircase.

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