I wondered why other countries didn't promote service as we did. The answer was that they didn't have a Ruth Stanton to inspire them. Ruth knew the task of every volunteer, kept their spirits high, rewarded them with praise, kept the team spirit going. She devoted all her waking hours to the children she never had herself. She would sponsor the most tremendous tasks from a performance of "Bye Bye Birdie" (Buckle Down Winsock!) straight from Broadway, or a huge fund drive for children suffering from malnutrition, to the tiniest enquiry from a squeaky seven year old about the School Spirit Club. She was indefatigable; she never failed to raise a smile; she never made a critical remark; she was the heart and soul of the school, a Saint of EA.
Ruth's spirit suffused the whole school. I have never been in a happier place. When I went into the classrooms, as I often did, the teachers were smiling, the children were humming, the whole school was alive. People had told me that American children were brats, they were noisy, they were insolent, they were indulged too much.... Well, they may have been all these when they went to the playground for recess (and why not?) but never in the classroom or the halls or even tumbling out of the front door at 4 o'clock (the crossing guards did a great job here). Our school was the best behaved in the city because our students loved, and were interested and enthralled by, their admirable teachers. They had kindergarten kids lying on the ground and counting insects on a vacant lot next to the school. (How many entomologists began there?) Mr. Pettinati asked a seventh grade math class what was the height of the tallest point in the school? One student guessed 150 feet. Another said she would ask Cassiano, the custodian. "What would the Egyptians we have been studying have done?" said P. Then they recalled the sun's angle and the shadow on the ground, and they were onto Pythagoras and triangulation.... Another happy class I remember fondly was with Miss Switt, a much underrated English teacher, who was badly treated because she was somewhat plump. She was trying to rouse an obtuse 12th grade class to the spell of Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner." Her explanations got the slow handclap. On a sudden, she plucked a sailor's hat from a student, twirled her scarf around her neck, and CLIMBED ONTO THE TABLE. "I'm a very old sailor" she squawked, "and I can cast spells with my glittering eye." She looked daggers at us. "You, you and you think you're going to a wedding, but you're not. Now, get up here and believe, and act as if, you were afraid of being spellbound." She got a standing ovation at the end of the class. What fun we had at E.A. How I wish I could hear all your tales and memories!
I can only remember one or two stories (of many) when I had to laugh at myself. One was when I addressed the PTA in my first year and I told them, among other things, that we were to change to the (more rigorous) IOWA achievement tests. I pronounced this IO' WA, and when the tittering subsided, Wayne MacAfee whispered in a loud sotto voice, "Who is she, and what do you owe her?" And I recall when the new building was being built, the quad was covered with bricks, cables, signs. When I arrived one morning, the door of my office was covered with a notice -- "DANGER, HIGH TENSION, 1000 VOLTS." (I kept the sign up.) Then there was the time close to the annual meet with the
Escola Graduada, when I chose to address the High School on a subject important to their health. "Unfortunately," I said, "the slats on the floor in the locker room of the new building have not yet been delivered. There is a serious threat that you may catch foot rot if there is water on the floor. For your own sakes, I advise you to bring tamancos [wooden-soled clogs] if you have to change in the locker room." Next morning, when I arrived at the school, someone told me there was a solid bloc of students marching down the Avenida, with posters and signs and loud campaign songs. I discovered that these were good-humored chaps from the school. They were singing "Down with foot rot! Up with Cole!" I quickly borrowed some tamancos from Cassiano and joined the parade. (I learnt that "foot rot" was an English term for a disease affecting cattle; I should have said "athletes' foot." Ah, the perils of bilingualism!)
I enjoyed every minute of E.A. I profited from everyone there -- students, teachers, parents, the Board of Trustees. (I hope some of you may have gained something from me.) I am sorry that I have only now, 40 years on, acknowledged it.