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Posted: January 2, 2013 12:13 p.m.

A voice on the line

When the student body moved into the building that now houses Newton High School, every classroom had a phone. Those phones hung on the wall, and, in theory, a teacher could call the office if he or she had a question or discipline problem. He could also call another classroom or the library. Supposedly, a teacher could dial some special number and make an announcement that would be broadcast over the loud speaker throughout the school. A principal certainly never answered a call from the classroom, even in an emergency. You might get a secretary who could try to find someone to help you. But by that time, the emergency was over or some teachers had come to your rescue.

That phone system was toast in about two years. Since the building had no walls, the phones were fair game for students. They could make prank calls to other classrooms when they found a phone in an empty classroom. Accidentally, they could even break into the loud speaker system. And the receivers were subject to theft. What white tower genius who designed schools thought that putting those phones in classrooms which had no walls was a good idea?

The phones went, and we heard the announcements of the day over the loud speaker. Usually, the announcements were standard fair. What club or teacher committee was meeting when and where. The score of the latest ball game. Announcements for dramatic, choral and orchestra events. Winners of various contests.

Sometimes, however, the announcements could be startling or even amusing. One year the Student Council asked teachers their favorite songs and blasted them on the loud speaker in the morning. Most of us named classic rock songs like "Pretty Woman."

One year, when Adam Sandler was on "Saturday Night Live," the lunch menu was given daily. It was a good day when turkey was being served because you would be serenaded with "Turkey for me/Turkey for you/Let's eat the turkey/In my big brown shoe." It became so popular with the students that the students who made the announcements of the lunch menu would bemoan the fact that turkey was not being served that day and then launch into the song anyway.  

The Language Arts Department took umbrage at the announcements when the prom committee began advertising for a contest at the prom which would honor "The Most Uniquely Dressed." Unique is an adjective that cannot be compared. Something is either unique (one of a kind) or it is not. We protested to the administration, but grammatical correctness lost to political correctness. In other words, if the students want that honor, let them have it.

There were inevitable mispronunciations. The one which comes to mind is of a principal who always pronounced wrestling as "wrastling." Why didn't someone else volunteer to read the wrestling results as those industrious sports men seemed to have a meet at least once a week and sometimes more often?

This same principal was announcing the results of the Literary Meet and stated "Mazurka Nocturne" (I may be horribly misspelling this) won the piano competition in at the meet. "Mazurka Nocturne" was the name of the musical composition being played. It was not the name of a student. The bulletin for that day ( which listed all the students absent) asked that anyone who found Muzurka Nocturne to please send her to the office.

In that principal's defense, he probably arrived in his office just minutes before it was time to make the announcements and someone pushed a sheaf of papers in his hand for him to read. He had no time to go over what was given him and did the best that he could.

Anyone, and I include myself, can just blank out when a microphone is shoved in his or her face.

I remember being interviewed by the local radio station about a student who was named STAR student. I commented that the student was multi-talented and was a member of the band and on the Literary Meet team. The interviewer asked me what instrument that talented student played. I replied, "First chair."

There is something about that microphone that changes your speech patterns as surely as the doctor's white coat changes your blood pressure.

Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com.

 

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