16 years ago, I was a freshman in high school. It's hard to believe that many years have gone by since my first day at Roane County High. One of the teachers that was most talked about before entering high school was Judy Wassom. In all honesty, most of what I heard about her were horror stories. I heard about how she screamed a lot. I heard her class would be one of the hardest I would sit through in all 4 years of high school. I heard I would love to hate her. Only part of these things were true. I believe I had Honors English with her 5th period. I spent the entire first day thinking, "how bad is it going to be?."
On the first day of class Mrs. Wassom told us these things: "I only have 5 rules:
1. Come in, sit down, shut up.
2. Be on time.
3. Do NOT click pens.
4. Failure to do so... Wassom War.
5. If you get caught cheating, you will get an F for the semester."
The woman meant buisness and I was terrified of her. At this point in my life, I was only just beginning to become more of an individual. I had started painting my fingernails strange colors, wearing bell bottoms and shopping vintage. Mrs Wassom took note of my greenish yellow nail polish one day, telling me that it looked like my fingernails were oozing pus. Oddly, that strange statement linked us and after that I wasn't as scared of her. She moved me to "Siberia" after that for talking. I only wish I could remember who I was talking to that whole time! (My memory has failed me on this account!) Prehaps it was Dylan. Shortly thereafter, I was moved again to Mongolia, which was closer to her desk where I could be kept a careful watch over. Mongolia was the most delightful place ever. I guess a lot of people would say being moved there was a bad thing, but it enabled me to special perks. I got to untangle a ball of Christmas lights that looked like the ones from Christmas vacation, and I also got to leave class and get things for her a lot.
There was also the dreaded literary test at the end of the year. Mrs. Wassom's claim to fame. I thought about this 3 days ago when I heard of her passing. I still remember so many, and it's all thanks to her. Mrs. Wassom was the kind of educator who was HARD on students. She made it tough on purpose, telling us "life is hard, so why should we make anything easy?"
My tribute to Mrs. Wassom: The novels and their authors: the ones I still know by heart.
The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Red Badge of Courage: Stephen Crane
Pride and Predjudice: Jane Austen
Dracula: Bram Stoker
Moby Dick: Herman Melville
Robinson Curusoe: Daniel Defoe
Call of the Wild: Jack London
The Jungle Book: Richard Kipling
The Scarlett Letter: Nathaniel Hawthorne
War and Peace: Tolstoy
I have run into Mrs. Wassom several times over the years since I left high school, and each time she was happy and pleasant and always interested in what I had been doing. The last time I saw her was Saturday for a baby shower. She looked fantastic and was kind as ever.
Small maybe, but I owe these to her. May you rest in peace Mrs. Wassom, and thank you for your undying devotion to Literature.