Mr. Wolfe, my high school math teacher, sometimes started class off with the dreaded “take out a sheet of paper.” This meant that we were about to have a “pop quiz,” the bane of every unprepared student. A collective gasp accompanied the putting away of math books and the retrieval of a single blank sheet of paper. I remembered this first when I thought about posting about a piece of paper. Apparently that experience overrode my previous positive associations.

But long before high school I, along with every other kid in my class, learned how to make a simple paper airplane. Although it was certainly possible to make complex folds, I stuck to the model pictured above. It worked fine and sailed across the classroom when necessary. Of course we all knew how to look completely innocent when a missile flew around the room. Making an ordinary plane ensured anonymity.

I have no idea how kids learn ways to torment teachers. I am not referring to actual bad behavior such as talking back or using physical force. In the 1950’s we were really still in awe of teachers. But we did sometimes toss a paper airplane or spit a wad of paper at another student. Of course teachers had appropriate punishments for such stunts. I remember one boy having to take a sheet of paper and make spit balls one after another and send them into a waste basket. He probably has as bad a sense about “take out a sheet of paper” as I do.

26 thoughts on ““Paper”

  1. When I was young, we still had ‘The Cane’ as punishment at school. (Being hit with a long thin stick) One stroke across each hand for routine naughtiness, or ‘Six of the best’ on the bottom for something exceptional. Bad kids used to place an exercise book inside their trousers to reduce the effect of the caning, but if the teacher saw that, he hit their thighs instead. That was more painful!
    Best wishes, Pete.


  2. Great memories. Your’s always trigger some for me. When I think of paper I think of how we passed notes in class. Most of the time successfully, but occasionally one was intercepted and read to the class. 🙂


  3. I grew up in the time of corporal punishment in school. Wooden paddles with holes drilled in them, rubber paddles. We were encouraged to behave in the seen and not heard mindset. As a girl, we mostly passed notes, made ‘slam books’ and ‘cootie catchers’, and talked too much.


  4. This made me think of demonstration speeches in my classroom. I always tried to give my students safe public speaking situations. One of my regular assignments was to have the kids teach a lesson about something they knew. One boy, not a very good student, could create the most intricate and detailed paper airplanes I ever saw. It was good for him to get so much positive attention from his classmates as most academic things he struggled with. He taught the other kids in the class how to make them, and we went outside and measured the distances the different styles went. That brought in averaging. It was a great all-around lesson.


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