School Skippers

blog post
Junior high school skipping in most non-urban towns is rare, but not unusual1observation/judgment not verified by statical data.
Disclaimer: Much or even most of the following is second-hand, so I cannot testify in court to parts unobserved by me.

The teachers’ union was on strike and the school administration declared that student attendance was optional. It was a strong union town, so most parents did not send their kids.

Brothers Darryl and Darryl whose names I’ll take from the Newhart TV show2 “Hi, I’m Larry. This is my brother, Darryl and my other brother, Darryl.” were twins in grade level, but nearly a year apart in age.3Yes, this sounds a little like the girls in “Of Slugs V” but… The boys were walkers and usually came to school on a path from the neighborhood through the trees mentioned in my post about Skifoot.

Neither Darryl the Older nor Darryl the Younger were destined to be Rhodes Scholars, but neither were they in danger of repeating a grade. Their standardized tests showed ability a few points above their class subject grades, but neither liked school which influenced their scholastic levels.

Well, back to the skipping incident.

The boys arrived at last bell and went to the gym for a shoot around supervised by a substitute teacher. The jocks and want-to-be jocks dominated ball possession, so Darryl and Darryl were permitted to watch one of the movies being shown in classrooms supervised by other substitutes.

With only about 100 of the school’s 600 students present, lunch was served early. Darryl the Older shared a plan with his brother, but neither had ever missed lunch, so they’d make their move during transition back to one of the classrooms.

I was on the picket line on public property with a full view of the woods. Older and Younger stepped out the back door and looked both ways. I wasn’t sure until later if they saw me or not. They sprinted to the path they usually took coming to school. But instead of going out of sight on the trail, they turned and moved tree to tree like our Revolutionary War militia men avoiding the British4They did see me but thought I was too far away to recognize them..

Where the woods ended a little over 200 yards from the school building, they broke into a full sprint and disappeared behind a convenience store. A minute or so later, their heads appeared at the corner of the building. Their posture was, ‘look casual’ as they came around the corner and entered the store.

All of that was Friday, the strike was settled over the weekend, and schools were in full operation on Monday. Just after school, the Darryls approached the vice principal at the bus line. Older asked if their parents had been called about their being suspended. After they volunteered a detailed confession, VP didn’t tell them school had been optional on Friday. He said something like, “I’ll excuse it this time, “but never again.”

I have no idea if they skipped again.




blog post
Just saying.
My seventh-grade team lost only one game that season.
Being qualified to coach football in the junior high school wasn’t difficult in those days.

Usually, coaches were also the PE teachers and for whatever reason history teachers. I was neither but coached a season of seventh grade football. The previous spring, I was an assistant track coach. My qualifications for coaching: I ran track and played football in high school.

I was approached to coach the team and could earn $750 for the season. Since my regular contract paid $7,500, it was a true bonus. That’s right – we made four digits in those days, but our house cost only $17,500.

Most of the players ended up on the junior high varsity as eighth graders or freshman, and all but a few eventually played high school ball. In those days junior high was 7-8-9 and high school was 10-11-12.

Some of the post season discussions were about the other junior high in town wining only one game that season. Players on that team had the same ensuing success as those on my team at the high school that drew from both junior high schools.


There is more to the story. The only game we had was against that other junior high school.




blog post
As I said in my “Skifoot and She” posts, most students with whom I dealt over the years were average. However, I was challenged often by many whose natural abilities far exceeded mine. But in my defense, like recognizing a good ‘gotcha’ I was not intimidated by or rejecting of young talent.

Emerging computer technology in the mid-1980s was a challenge to many teachers. My having some operational experience with 1960s military versions I had somewhat of an advantage but that’s another story.

I took a computer programing class and put what I learned to use. I wrote a 200-line program in BASIC (Beginners’ All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) on an Apple II and adapted it for Atari and Heathkit computers. Math anxiety woodshop students entered data to determine the number of board feet1surface area in a project. Knowing the board feet was necessary for calculating the cost of a project.

Classroom trials of the program were satisfying so I developed a volume calculating program. Both programs were published in the vocational education journal School Shop.

I was comfortable with telling myself, “I’m keeping up with the techno-geeks.”

A technology ‘gotcha’ came into my life when a freshman student tried the program and said something like, “Mr. Benson, I believe I can make this work faster and appear better on the screen.” I took that as a challenge and gave him my raw data and the programs I’d written.

The next day he presented me with what he said he could do.2Wish I’d saved a copy of his work for comparison to mine.

I decided to be a computer user and let the younger and faster be the developers.

Skifoot and She II

blog post
She’s twin, Skifoot, DID NOT have social anxiety disorder! Skifoot’s stated goal was to make the vice principal’s life as miserable as possible, and he shared that goal openly.

Skifoot got his nickname from having size 14 feet. And he was touted by his elementary school as ready for the ninth grade or above when he entered junior high school. Unlike She, Skifoot seldom missed a full day of school. He did, however, miss individual classes but as far as I knew he never left campus. Had DNA technology been as it is today, we could have had proof that the cigarette butts found in different places in the woods at the edge of the school grounds were his.

Except for being caught smoking once each quarter and taking the five-day suspension without protest, Skifoot was never caught doing any other thing punishable. I wasn’t privy to the specifics of what else he did to make the VP miserable, but his actions were often in discussion in the faculty lunchroom.

His only class with me was mechanical drawing in which he had 3 points for the semester. We had access to student scores in standardized tests when meeting with counselor about students having academic problems. Skifoot scored zero on two standardized tests that required broad knowledge. That would be very near impossible unless the test taker knew every correct answer in a multiple-choice test.

Skifoot’s parting remark to me on the last day of school, “Mr. Benson, you messed up my goal of getting all zeros. I’d given him and the other students three points, because I’d given a quiz and added three-free points to make it easier for me to calculate a score in my head.

Unlike his sister She, Skifoot dropped out of school. The last verifiable rumor I heard was that he was making more in cash as a gyppo logger than a starting teacher. An unverifiable rumor was that he had other cash crops at remote locations.

I lost track of the twins, but a former colleague told me he’d heard that Skifoot had been killed in a logging accident and She was doing research at an Ivy League college.

Skifoot and She I

blog post
Most of the students with whom I delt over the years were average – a little ahead or a little behind the center of the normal distribution curve. But Skifoot was a genius! And his sister She was too.

Sister first:

She1Not her real name – but you probably guessed that. as one counselor told me would have tested somewhere in the high 140s or conceivably higher. I had She in just one class. When She was assigned to my all girl English class at the beginning of winter quarter, she had already missed most of the first ten weeks. You might remember is said my all girl English class was eighth grade. So why was She, a seventh grader, in that class? I’m not sure, and didn’t question it then.2This forum is not a good place for I really think/believe about the situation.

School policy for attendance, at the time, was: a student missing 15 days except for verifiable medical reasons would receive a failing grade. She’s record coming into my class revealed she had been at school the first few days and on the days for mid-quarter and end of quarter first quarter testing.

Transferred first quarter grade records showed that She had aced both the mid-quarter and quarter tests in the seventh-grade class in which she had been enrolled. With tests being only 40% of the grade, and her being absent all but 5 days, She was an F student in English and all other classes because her attendance was the same for each of them.

She’s parents didn’t return calls from me, other teachers, or counselors. At the end of the school year, letters went out notifying She’s parents that she would have to repeat 7th grade. She had been enrolled in seventh because her California school records showed her completing sixth while living apart from her local family.

I transferred to the high school that fall and lost track of She. I learned later that She tested through a GED program and qualified for admission to a university just shy of her 14th birthday.

We had no idea about She’s having social anxiety disorder. Her brother Skifoot, however was a different story.


%d bloggers like this: