Janet Shields, humorist; Sheldon McGuire, teacher

A few posts ago I wrote of a recently-discovered letter from my father written over sixty years ago. While preparing for a visit by our children, my wife went through some of our papers and came across some of my old report cards from elementary school that go back over fifty years.

They include my mother’s comments, some of which I hadn’t read before or only now can fully appreciate.

It’s a long-standing joke in the Shields clan that no one has ever accused me of having good handwriting. Indeed, I suspect that the availability of line printers — machines that could present my work in legible form — may be the main reason I went into computing.

The report cards in those days had three categories: S for Satisfactory, I for needs Improvement, and U for Unsatisfactory. I almost always got S’s, except for the occasional U and I in handwriting, as was the case in sixth grade, when I got a “U” for “writing legibly” in the first report period. This resulted in the following exchange between my teacher, Sheldon McGuire, and my mother, Janet Shields:

Janet Shields:

David’s report card has many S’s
But his writing a sad mess is.
Let’s hope he has planned
With less scribbly left hand
Next quarter to really surprise us.

Sheldon McGuire:

David has continued doing good school work. His enthusiasm is a joy. His writing is much improved. (We appreciated and enjoyed your verse.)

Janet Shields:

A very fine report. Makes me very glad for David.

Sheldon McGuire:

David has continued doing good work. He is surely a capable person. David has been a good class president.

Janet Shields:

Maybe he should write with his right hand. But on the other hand this is a very fine report. Very glad for David.

Janet Shields. May her memory — and her sense of humor — be a blessing.

Mr McGuire. You were a blessing, too. I think that you, more than any of my other elementary school teachers, emphasized writing.

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