Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Diagram This

Mr. Carpenter was my 11th grade English teacher.  Actually, it's wasn't called English that year.   The official name for the class was Language Skills.  We did very little writing and reading in favor of diagraming sentences.  We seriously diagramed sentences.  there was a little portable chalk board on a small stage that was in the front of the classroom.  Mr. Carpenter would step up on the little stage after taking roll at his desk off to the left.  He'd roll the little chalkboard out so the class could easily see it and have a sentence already written for us to dissect.

The only other thing I recall about that class, save what I'm about to write now, is that we worked out of a grammar book most of the time.  I had my book covered with brown paper that had once held groceries.  Homework and classwork came out of that book.  It was language skills incarnate.
Mr. Carpenter was the Junior class sponsor.  He was fairly popular, youthful, probably gay, and for the most part very serious about his subject.  He could control our class because he knew how to get the environment he wanted and he knew his subject well.  He could diagram the hair off a sentence and we were all impressed.  Once he gave us the sentence:  "The private laid out his bedroll over the Sergeant's objection."  A trick sentence to be sure, but we all rose to the challenge.  The prepositional phrase "over the Sergeant's objection" was the problem, because it wasn't literally what the bedroll was laying on.
I don't remember how the issue was solved and I don't really care.  So far as I know, it has not made a difference in my life.  It was good fun at the time even if we were all a bit confused.  Mr. Carpenter must have had a good laugh adjusting his lesson plan that day.  I hope he did, because, except for the time I said a swear word in front of him while decorating for the Jr. Prom, the thing I remember most about Mr. Carpenter was his demeanor and appearance on November 22, 1963.

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