Mrs. Baker, my third- and fourth-year Latin teacher at OPRF High School was a kind person who never raised her voice, but she had a secret weapon — known to the students as “the glare.”
We didn’t see it often, but when we did, we believed that her secret weapon could freeze the hands on a clock, stop a thug in his tracks, and scare even the toughest criminal.
This is how it worked: her eyebrows arched, her nostrils flared and her lips became razor thin. Her eyes were the scariest because they changed color from gray to black.
There were about 20 boys and girls in Latin 3 and 4, and on the rare occasion when someone would be misbehaving and not paying attention, Mrs. Baker would walk over to the student and give him/her “the glare.” The kid would shrink like a dying violet and quickly get back on track.
The consequences of challenging “the glare” were too scary to imagine.
Only a few students tried to cross the line and stare at her, but they quickly folded because Mrs. Baker could hold the glare” — we believed — forever.
Mrs. Baker had the incredible ability to foresee problems before they became apparent to others in the classroom, and one look in the culprit’s direction stopped any indiscretions.
I remember one time, though, when “the glare” was truly challenged by a guy named Ron. He was annoying a girl who sat in front of him, and he wouldn’t stop even when asked to by the girl.
Mrs. Baker walked to Ron’s desk and gave him “the glare” and since Ron was a goof-off, the class carefully watched Ron’s reaction.
We were shocked when Ron told Mrs. Baker that she looked weird. The class was surprised because Ron had received “the glare” and had not wilted.
I saw a sudden change in Mrs. Baker’s face. She appeared taken aback. I suddenly felt that Ron had gained the upper hand on Mrs. Baker, and that he would become more of a pain every day.
I was mistaken, and since I sat across the aisle from Ron, I saw it all.
Mrs. Baker sighed deeply and then gave him an “ultra-glare.”
Her eyes not only changed color, but they became huge, her lips became white, and she grinned at Ron. This was the finishing touch.
Ron’s eyes fluttered, his jaw dropped and tears came to his eyes. He was defeated, and he knew it. He apologized to Mrs. Baker and never again did he act like an idiot.
I am certain that Mrs. Baker would never send a goof-off to the dean’s office because the deans did not possess “the glare,” so who could they intimidate?
During the two years Mrs. Baker was my Latin teacher, she supervised four student teachers.
These student teachers had great control of our classroom because Mrs. Baker had taught them “the glare,” and they used it well.
It’s too bad that Mrs. Baker didn’t patent her secret weapon because it would be a helpful tool for today’s teachers to use when confronting a challenging student.
John Stanger is a lifelong resident of Oak Park, a 1957 graduate of OPRF High School, married with three grown children and five grandchildren, and a retired English professor (Elmhurst College). Living two miles from where he grew up, he hasn’t gotten far in 77 years.