Teacher’s Pet

When I was in second grade, my friends told me I was the teacher’s pet. I didn’t really think of myself as such, but I was the one Mrs. Russell chose to keep in during recess at the end of the day to help her with projects such as putting up bulletin boards, cutting out things, cleaning erasers, or doing errands for her.  


That’s me in the circle and Mrs. Russell with the tall hair standing.

 You can see the book characters on the wall. 
That year we had recess after lunch, and then a quiet time where we would rest our heads on our desks and listen to the teacher read to us.  My favorite book that she read was The Wizard of Oz.  She had put characters from the book on the wall and I would study them every day.  I was so enamored with the story and so eager to know what happened next that I persuaded my parents to buy me a copy of the book. Soon I found myself the proud owner of the Whitman version of the book which I believe I read in one weekend.
Another thing I remember about reading in elementary school was the SRA reading kit.  SRA stands for Science Research Associates.  During SRA time, we would go to the SRA box on the counter in the classroom, pick a folded card with a reading selection and then we would be tested over the reading.  If we scored high enough on the reading test, we could advance to the next color.  If not, we had to select another story in the same color.  Being kind of an overachiever, I would rush through the reading, take the test, and see if I could advance faster than anyone else.  I was in the top reading group, after all.
Back in the 60’s we were all divided into reading groups based on our abilities.  Though the groups were named benignly after birds or colors, there was no doubt in our minds which group was the smartest, which was the middle, and which was the slowest.  And since there were no classroom teacher aides, we were expected to work on an assignment at our desks while the teacher had a reading group at a table in the back of the room.  No one misbehaved during that group time because no one wanted to be the recipient of a swing from the teacher’s paddle or a visit to the principal’s office.  There was real fear in those days.  I think it had something to do with the fact that you would catch it at home as well.
So  I was smart.  Miss Goody-Two-Shoes.  The girl who followed the rules.  The girl who got to stay in from recess and help the teacher.   Teacher’s pet.  What about you?  Were you the teacher’s pet?  


Little April Goes to School

My school career began when my family and I lived in the James house in Van.  Back when I was a youngster they didn’t have kindergarten in public school, so I attended a two-week preschool at J.E. Rhodes Elementary School.   I don’t remember a lot about it, but I do remember riding a big school bus, and one classmate in particular riding in the backseat. His first name was Mark, and we eventually graduated high school together. 
Later on I started first grade.   My teacher’s name was Mrs. Gilbreath.  My friend Lisa who used to be my neighbor was in Mrs. Moore’s class.  I was disappointed that she wasn’t in my class but I’m sure I made other friends.  As a big sister I didn’t mind taking on responsibility, but once when the teacher was out of the room I took it upon my six-year-old self to stand up and tell the class to be quiet.  Imagine my humiliation when the teacher caught me and gave me a quick swat with her hand on my backside.  And I was only trying to help!

My first grade class picture. Can you find me? (middle row, fourth from right)
My friend Mark stands right behind me.
I wasn’t always that sure of myself, though.  I remember sitting on the couch in our tiny living room while Daddy watched out the front window for the big yellow bus that would take me to school.  I clutched a box of 64 Crayola crayons wrapped with a rubber band under which was stuck two buffalo-head nickels for the snack bar so I could buy a big red sucker or some Sugar Babies.  Yes, the school peddled candy to children and we lived!
As the bus neared our driveway, my parents would send me out the door where I would, with great difficulty, climb the bus steps with my short little legs and find an empty seat among all the big noisy kids.  I felt so very small, and I can’t imagine how my parents must have felt watching me get on that big school bus.  I remember sitting next to an older girl with a long ponytail, bony knees, and long black hair on her legs.  Girls wore dresses to school in those days.
At some point that year, my brother and I came down with the measles.  Not the three-day German measles (rubella) but the more serious measles or rubeola.  There were no vaccines back then, or at least they weren’t widely available or recommended like they are today.  I remember lying on the couch and being very ill.  Fortunately we suffered through the illness and recovered.  I’m not sure how much school we missed.
Coming home from school every day was memorable.  Stay tuned for story time, music, Mercury dimes, and swimming lessons.