I heard this story from child psychologist Ned Hallowell and, with his permission, turned it into a song.  It is a tribute to the tenderness of one of his elementary school teachers who, to her six-year-old students, seemed quite imposing.  I have no idea if the real Mrs. Eldredge wore her glasses on a cord around her neck, but my mother did when she taught second grade, so into the song went that detail.

Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer produced another recording of this for me in February of 2007 -- one which featured the great singer-storyteller Tom Paxton.  That single is still available on iTunes searchable through the title, or look for the yellow cover among Mr. Paxton’s albums searching with his name.  It is also accessible through a number of streaming services including Spotify.


The version here is my demo of the song.

© 2006 Steven E. Cutts

a Studio C recording, Summer/Fall 2006



The other kids in first grade were ahead of me

When it came time for “Look, look, look, run, run, and see.”

                  Those stories about Dick and Jane

                  Seemed awfully simple, clear, and plain

When they would read,

But when I tried, the words would all collide

And twist and jumble as they pleased.


Our teacher Mrs. Eldredge was not young or thin;           

Beneath her powdered cheeks she had a triple chin.

                   Plump and round as she could be;

My mom politely said that she was “Heavy-set”                 

She peered at us through spectacles that sometimes dangled    

From a chain around her neck.


                  She seemed so stern

                                    No question: you were in her class to learn!

                                    But Mrs. Eldredge very quickly earned

                                    My gratitude and trust.


My classmates never quite got ‘round to teasing me,

But I could feel them sitting there impatiently.

                   Those letters that to them made sense

                  Confused me and made me feel tense

And want to cry,

 I never quite got ‘round to tearing up

And there was a good reason why!


                                    The time would arrive

                                    For reading group, and I’d feel terrified,

                                    Then I’d calm down if I sat side-by-side

                                    Mrs. Eldridge’s arm.


If I was having trouble with the words that day

Mrs. Eldredge reached her arm around me, as if to say,

                  “Take your time; I know it’s hard

                  You’re just as smart as the others are,

                  I have no doubt.”

That made me bold, the story would unfold,

And words began to tumble out.


I’d really try;                                                                                                                              

I’d lean against her and feel much less shy;

My confidence shot up surrounded by

Mrs. Eldredge’s arm.


When summer came, I still was stumbling when I read.

Away from school there was no comfy arm; instead

                  I’d take a deep breath and pretend

                  I was inside of her arm again;

                  That’s all it took.  


That comfort of her arm is still a lucky charm :

I make my living writing books!


The other kids in first grade were ahead of me

When it came time for “Look, look, look, run, run, and see.”