When I was in sixth grade my teacher had a set of stamps lined along the edge of her desk. I can still picture them now. Wooden, well-worn and and hand-inked from an battered, blue-stained pad. Each stamp had an individual design. If I close my eyes I can see them now. The rounded 'good'; the floral border around the oval 'very good', the long thin 'excellent', and the stamp-of-all-stamps the 'special merit'. With it's swirled writing, this was the stamp we really wanted. And if we went above and beyond we could even earn a special merit with a gold star.
We used to cue with anticipation at our teacher's desk, work in hand. What stamp would we earn today? She would sit in her chair pondering our work with a slight head-tilt. We would watch, hearts pounding as her hand passed over each stamp in turn. If it came to rest on the 'special merit' we would almost burst as we watched her arms tremble with the force it took her liver-spotted hands to pound it into our work. I can hear the noise, the definitive thump as the stamp pounded it's judgement into our pages.
Our teacher was old (although probably not nearly as old as I remember) and sadly died a long time ago , but sometimes I wonder if I'm not still queuing for those stamps.