A Tribute to Mr. Stanley
written by Lisa Larson, a former student
Mr. Stanley always played his guitar on Fridays after lunch. Always. Our fifth grade class would gather in a circle on the floor in front of him and he would strum his guitar and sing goofy songs about our lessons that week. He sang about the Dewey Decimal System and the solar system, fractions and freedom and reading and responsibility – it was the coolest thing that had ever happened to me at school! So the day that I came in from lunch and saw the guitar still in its case and Mr. Stanley perched behind his desk, I was livid.
What had we done to deserve this? Who had misbehaved and gotten our music taken away? Who had disrespected Mr. Stanley and made him so mad that he wouldn’t sing for us today?
I was going to kill that person.
After everyone had trickled in from recess and came to the same realization that I had, we quickly sat in our desks, folded our hands in front of us and assumed innocent faces. There had to be some way to get the guitar and singing and fun back.
Mr. Stanley slowly rose from behind his desk, his arm outstretched to the classroom. The brown eye clutched between his gnarled fingers stared balefully at us. We all sat in stunned silence. This might be as cool as the guitar.
I don’t think anyone was prepared for the shininess, the loneliness, the utter grossness of the eye. Two weeks of reading, studying diagrams and drawing our own illustrations had not prepared us for the dripping orb watching us now.
His gentle voice broke the silence as he walked between our desks, giving us a close-up look at the eye. After every student had seen it, he walked to the table at the front of the room and beckoned us forward.
The first slice into the juicy globe shocked me and made my lunch rocket around inside my stomach, but when he flayed the side open and I could see the diagram from the textbook and my own illustration lying on the table in front of me, I was hooked. The absence of the guitar didn’t matter anymore.
In one afternoon, Mr. Stanley had taken science from the flat, one-dimensional world where it usually lived and made it come alive. In that moment, I was certain that we were the coolest fifth grade class in the history of education and that I was the luckiest kid on the planet for getting to be a part of something so incredible.
It has been thirty years since that day in Mr. Stanley’s class, but I remember it like it was yesterday. As a teacher now, I appreciate the effort that he put forth to make learning as fun and memorable as possible whenever he could.