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Life Memoirs school teaching writing

Fifth Grade Follies

It was in the fifth grade that I began writing stories. I don’t recall exactly what I wrote but I shared my work with friends, and at one time, my teacher. Any feedback they might have given me is not in my memory banks, so maybe it wasn’t that good? I don’t know. I do know that I began to consider myself a writer at that age.

That is when I discovered the book Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I must have checked it out of the school library a dozen times. I identified with little Harriet, although I didn’t consider myself a spy. She spied on people, even sneaked into their homes, to gather information to write about, until one of her schoolmates stole her notebook. It was devastating to have her innermost thoughts and feelings revealed to the world. I was very careful about what I wrote in my own notebook, and the only spying I did was on my family. But the book got me writing.

Fifth grade was still a part of J.E. Rhodes Elementary but our classes were separated from the younger grades. I changed classes for math and reading, probably, I don’t recall. My granddaughter attends J.E. Rhodes Elementary now, although not in the same building. The original building was destroyed by a tornado several years ago, so she goes to school in my old high school building. Of course, it’s all been renovated so it is unrecognizable as the old high school. I just attended her kindergarten graduation in the auditorium that I graduated in 45 years ago! How can that be? At least it’s air-conditioned now!

One memory I have that stands out is one time when we were in class sitting in desks that had been pushed together to make a large group. It was after lunch and I had been bitten by the witty bug and couldn’t keep my mouth closed in my efforts to entertain my classmates. Mrs. Pittman jumped all over me, telling me in front of the class how disappointed she was in my behavior. I’m telling you that stopped it once and for all. I was so ashamed of myself I wished I could disappear. I wish it was that easy to make kids behave today.

Fifth grade. The cusp of preteen-hood. Not quite a baby, not quite a teen, still a kid, but a big one. Next time: a visit to Neiman Marcus for an embarrassing visit with Santa.

My fifth grade school picture.
The pixie haircut grew out!

Do you have any standout memories of fifth grade? Do tell!

XOXO

Categories
Life Memoirs school teaching

Another 4th Grade Thing

I thought I had pretty much exhausted my memories of fourth grade but something came to mind the other day that I feel should be documented for my kids and grandkids if they care to read about it some day. It happened one day in my fourth grade P.E. class in the multipurpose room at J.E. Rhodes Elementary.

We girls were sitting in our assigned spaces on the gym floor when the gym teacher, or P.E. teacher as we called her, asked me to follow her into the dressing room, or locker room. Of course, any time a teacher, especially a coach, singles you out in front of everyone else, the anxiety ticks up some. For me, it ticked up a lot. I had no clue what she wanted. Was I in trouble?

“Nunn, follow me.” She always called her students by their last names. I guess that’s a common practice for coaches. At the age of nine I found it intimidating.

She stood me in front of a mirror in the quiet dressing room. At least there was no one else in there. “Look at you,” she said.

I did. I saw what I saw every day when I looked in the mirror: a pimply-faced average-sized kid on the brink of puberty.

“Your skin,” she said. “Are you washing your face every day?”

I was mortified. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to run and hide. I wanted my mama. I wanted to be anywhere but where I was. I’m sure my face went red as fire. I don’t remember. Or maybe it went white. Who knows?

“Yes, every morning and every night,” I managed to reply.

I don’t remember what else she said, but I do remember that she told me to ask my mother to get some Phisohex to wash my face with. She said that I was too young to have problem skin.

I know she probably meant well, but what she did was shame me. As if my skin weren’t already a source of embarrassment, she made sure I would be self-conscious about it for the rest of fourth grade, on up through high school, and in fact, for the rest of my life.

My mother bought me the Phisohex soap, had me start wearing makeup foundation, changed my diet, and tried everything she and I together could come up with. I eventually had to accept my acne, manage it as best I could, and accept the scarring it left. Perhaps my parents with their limited budget could have taken me to a dermatologist, but I’m not sure there was much that could be done about it in the early 70’s.

I did learn what an enormous impact a teacher can have on a student. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten over that traumatic day in the dressing room. Did she have the right to do what she did? I suppose she thought she did. Do I wish she had approached the matter with more sensitivity, perhaps contacted my parents first? Absolutely.

But I accepted what she said, swallowed my shame and mortification, and returned to the gym to do jumping jacks, run, or play dodgeball, or whatever she had planned for that day. As if nothing had happened. . .

I must add a postscript. I grew up and became a contributing member of society. I taught school for thirty years, raised two children into responsible, caring, and giving adults, taught Sunday School classes, wrote two novels and many articles and blog posts, and am now tutoring kids in English, writing, and math. I didn’t let that incident, which was earth-shattering at the time, ruin my life. It is what it is, and I’m a firm believer that God uses life events to shape us into what He wants us to become. What about you? What hardship has helped make you into who you are?

Blessings to you!

XOXO

Fourth grade me. The acne hadn’t shown up yet.
Categories
Being a Grandparent school

School on my mind

Today I dropped my beautiful grandson off at his elementary school for the first time ever. My heart swelled as he instructed me where to stop and let him out and as I watched him walk with the other children to the front doors of the school. His backpack secure on his back, wearing new Nike shoes and a new outfit from Gap, he seemed ready to take on the world.

Yesterday I asked him what his favorite part of school was. He replied, “I don’t know.” “So you like everything?” I asked. “Yes!” You can’t get better than that. I hope that positive attitude stays with him. I pray it does. I pray he always has today’s confidence and spirit. As a former teacher, I pray he carries that love of learning and being with friends throughout his life.

Today was my precious granddaughter’s first day of school, her first day of kindergarten. She doesn’t attend the same school as my grandson does, and I wasn’t able to be there, but her mom and dad and little sister dropped her off this morning. I wasn’t needed anyway. I did receive photos of her wearing the new outfit I bought her that said “Ready to rock kindergarten.” She posed proudly with her new lunch box and backpack, and later I saw a photo of her sitting in her classroom talking with her teacher. I pray today will be a good one for her, and that she will love school like her cousin does.

I hope soon to be able to pick her up from school, or maybe even to drop her off. These sweet and beautiful children make this grandma proud. I just wish their Pop was here to see them, but I suppose he is watching from Heaven and is as proud of them as their Coco is.

I will be like Mary, the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Time flies, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

Speaking of school, my heart goes out to all the teachers, administrators, school staff, parents, and students. You are doing the best you can in very difficult circumstances: the threat of Covid 19, increasing regulations, and increasing pressure from all sides. May this school year be as free as possible from high stress and overwhelming frustration, and full of satisfaction and success. You deserve it!

XOXO