Common Learnings
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A Treasured Memory
by Charles McGehee
 In 8th grade I had Miss Mabel Falke for Common Learnings, as it was known.  Among other things we learned English grammar -- and how! We drilled on sentence structure, punctuation, spelling, usage -- everything. And diagram-ming sentences -- oh, did we ever diagram sentences! We went to the blackboard, taking turns.  Endlessly.  Day in and day out.
Hearing me recount it would make one think that we were burdened and bored.  But no.  Not only was it not a drag, we loved it!  In fact many -- most -- of the class asked Miss Falke if we could get a copy of her book of drills, Self-Aids in English Usage. And so it was that we gave her money and she ordered us books -- twenty or so, if I recall -- which she passed out at the end of the class.  She even autographed them for us.  I still have mine.
When I think back on it, it was nothing short of miraculous that 8th graders would be so taken with any subject, let alone English grammar, that they would want a copy of the exercise book the teacher used.  Yet, it's true.
I never forgot Miss Falke and that class which, as it turned out, became the basis for my writing skills throughout the rest of my life.  As a college instructor I was known for nailing students on their poor writing which, I might add, was (is) rampant. Rumor had it that I had been an English major in college.  Students couldn't believe it when I told them that everything I knew I learned (that is, really learned) in 8th grade in Southeast High School. I might add that having a solid basis in English grammar made it so much easier to learn foreign languages, when I finally took them seriously.
Here is a picture of the book and Miss Falke's autograph.  I treasure it.
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