“Good Morning, Miss Dove” and a Tablet PC

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I’ve been rereading a formerly required story about a memorably focused teacher, “Good Morning, Miss Dove.” Ironically, I don’t remember which teacher required our class to read the story in an early version. Probably it was either Mrs. Chaney in the fifth grade or Mrs. Spurr in the seventh grade at Theodore Roosevelt Grammar School in Burlingame, California. I think President Roosevelt would have been pleased with us reading this story.

The author Frances Gray Patton draws her title character from the experiences many of our parents and us shared in grammar schools. We learned the grammar of the standard English language, mathematics, science, art, and social behavior. Grammar in those days referred in part to the structure and function of something.

The premise for Miss Dove is that “life was not easy. Life does not excuse mistakes. Life demanded all the disciplined courage and more, that one could bring to it” (p. 14). Miss Dove (“She looks like a teacher.”) is today’s politically incorrect educational remnant from 19th century schools. Teachers like Miss Dove prepared for life what journalists named “the greatest generation.”

“For Miss Dove had no moods. Miss Dove was a certainty. She would be today what she had been yesterday and would be tomorrow. And so, within limits, would they (her students). Single file they would enter her room. Each child would pause on the threshold as its mother and father had paused, more than likely, and would say – just as the policeman had said – in distinct, formal accents: “Good morning, Miss Dove.” And Miss Dove would look directly at each of them, fixing her eyes directly upon theirs, and reply: “Good morning, Jessamine,” or “Margaret,” or “Samuel.” (Never “Sam,” never “Peggy,” never “Jess.” She eschewed familiarity as she wished others to eschew it.) They would go to their appointed desks. Miss Dove would ascent to hers. Their lesson would begin.”

“There was no need to waste time in preliminary admonitions. Miss Dove’s rules were as fixed as the signs of the zodiac. And they were known. … The penalties for infractions were also known. It was easier – even if one had eaten salt fish for breakfast – to remain and suffer.” (p. 4)

I remember as a primary grades student “progressive school” teachers arguing in school hallways with Miss Dove traditional grammar oriented teachers. Progressive teachers (that’s what some called themselves as part of the John Dewey school movement – yes, I remember hearing references then to progressive education and John Dewey) said all teachers should use euphemisms for grammar in order not to hurt student sensibilities.

I don’t remember encountering or hearing about any teachers like Miss Dove in real life schools during the past several decades while professionally observing school teachers. Progressive school teachers seemed to dominate.

Then, I met Tablet PC in schools. It looks and acts like a teacher for the 21st century.

Like Miss Dove, it demands that each student, with or without eight hours of sleep, salt fish for breakfast, a parent, shoes, smiles, etc., follow strict rules in order to perform successfully. Turn on the Tablet PC (walk single file to the classroom), wait for the operating system to boot up (wait at the threshold to Miss Dove’s classroom), sign on with password (recite “Good morning, Miss Dove”), etc. And, penalties for infractions of these rules with a Tablet PC are also known.

I recognize the Tablet PC demand for linear thinking and predictability. It consistently tests each step of my performance. In Miss Dove’s terms, “For in every life – once, if not oftener – there was a proficiency test. A time came when one was put to the proof. One stood alone. He was what he was. He knew what he knew. He did what he could. And he had no source of strength outside himself” (p. 6).

I must try to make the Tablet PC work. It doesn’t work by itself. “Fortitude … sustained her and she discovered that responsibility was the native climate of her soul.” (p. 15)

A Tablet PC in schools offers regular tests for teachers and students. These are tests of disciplined thinking and behavior as varied as hardware and software developers can imagine.

Following the rules to make hardware and software work together can lead to learning, to positive consequences. It’s easier to follow the rules than to crash the program and machine. Fortitude with a Tablet PC can sustain teachers and students to discover that responsibility is native climate for learning by each of us today as it was for Miss Dove.

Thanks, Tablet PC developers, for bringing to us a contemporary Miss Dove for schools. I look forward to knowing the students you prepare. I wish them the best in exceeding accomplishments of past generations.

Patton, F.G., (1946). Good morning, Miss Dove. In T.B. Costain & J. Beecroft (eds., 1958), More stories to remember. NY: Doubleday & Co., pp. 1-95.

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Robert Heiny
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in [I]The Encyclopedia of Education [/I](1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for [I]TuxReports[/I].com.