Maude Eddy Stokes, 1924. Courtesy of Katy Day

How to Be Maude Stokes


Submitted 4 months ago
Created by
Sara Tucker

I asked some of the folks at Joslyn House, an assisted living residence where I sometimes do writing workshops, to tell me about Mrs. Stokes, who was a teacher in the Randolph Elementary School long enough to become a local legend. I jotted down their memories, and then I put them together in the form of a "how to be" portrait.


Maude Eddy with her students in 1924, before she married Mr. Stokes. Courtesy of Katy Day.


How to Be Maude Stokes
Begin and end your teaching career in the village of Randolph, Vermont.
Teach third grade—and only third grade—for approximately half a century.
Specialize.
Teach long enough to be able to say to one third-grade boy on the first day of school, “I hope you behave better in my classroom than your father did.”
Get to know the habits of third graders better than any other teacher in the history of Randolph Elementary School.
Watch out for the boys.
When a third-grade boy misbehaves, march him to the coat closet, otherwise known as the cloakroom.
Take a ruler with you.

Adopt a certain style of dress and never change, no matter what happens to women’s fashions during your lifetime.
Wear your hair in a bun.
Pin a cameo to the (high) neckline of your nondescript blue dress.
Give the impression of being exactly what you are, a schoolteacher, not a fashion plate.
Give the impression of being large and bulky and not to be messed with.

Speak with the voice of authority.

When the children are quietly working, leave the classroom and talk in the hallway with Mrs. Simmons.
Train the children to behave themselves while you talk with Mrs. Simmons.
Begin their training in the second grade.
Make sure that the name “Maude Stokes” inspires awe and fear in every second-grader.
Especially the boys.
Establish a reputation.

Allow no child to enter fourth grade without having mastered his multiplication tables.
Believe that every child is capable of success.
Insist.
When a certain third-grade girl of average intelligence refuses to learn her times-twelves, bang her head against the blackboard.
Do not actually injure her.

As a regular part of third-grade education, read aloud the interesting bits of news in the Boston Herald.
Follow in particular the Boston Trunk Murders.
When a mother complains that her daughter is having nightmares, decide to skip some of the gory details in your classroom updates on the Boston Trunk Murders.
Continue reading the headlines.

Never be seen driving a car.
Whenever a home visit is called for,
Get Mr. Stokes to drive you.
In the fall, when you go to the Annual Teachers Convention in Montpelier,
Get Mrs. Simmons or Mrs. Murray to drive you.

Look forward to the Annual Teachers Convention with great excitement.

Divulge nothing about your personal life.
Keep them guessing.
Never speak of Mr. Stokes in front of the children. Make them wonder if he exists.
Make them speculate, years later, that if he existed he must have been very small.
* * *

Maude Stokes with her students in 1956 (Class of '65). Courtesy of Katy Day.


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Mrs. Stokes was known as strict but fair, a teacher who truly wanted her students to succeed. She may not have been perfect; she was human, after all, as well as a product of her times. Here's a little writing exercise: Identify an important teacher in your life, somebody who provided guidance at an early age. Don't restrict your thinking to the classroom; teachers come in many guises. Some have fur or feathers. Did you ever have a horse, or a dog, or a pet crow that taught you about compassion, patience, or unconditional love? What was your teacher's name, what did he or she look like, what were his/her quirks and habits, and what how did this magical being change your life?

If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also like:
How to Be Jack Rowell, by Sara Tucker
The Glory Days of the Randolph Playground, by Mary Hutchinson
The Hale Street Gang: In Cahoots A collective memoir by residents of the Randolph Senior Center (available in print and Kindle editions)


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