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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

Categories
Memoirs

4th Grade Fun

Fourth grade was a fun year. Mrs. Davis was my teacher but we switched clasrooms and teachers for Reading. Mrs. Reed was my reading teacher. I believe that was the first year we switched classes, except we had always done so for music and P.E., of course.

My fourth grade class picture. That’s me in the front row, second student from the right with the wonky red bow on my dress!

One of the fun things I remember about fourth grade was art. One project we did involved covering wire coat hangers with yarn. My first attempt involved red and white yarn and came out pretty messy, probably because I missed the first day of the project, so I had to catch up. Then I did another one in red and green, which turned out much nicer. I gave that one to my mother, I believe.

Another project we did was for Valentine’s Day. We decorated large heart-shaped pockets which the teacher hung on the front of our desks. On Valentine’s Day we dropped our classmates’ Valentines into the pockets on the desks. My mother always made sure we had enough Valentines to give one to every person in the class. I wish I had saved some of those cute vintage Valentines. Of course, I treasured some of them more than others, like the ones from my best friends or the boy I liked.

Speaking of boys, it was customary to pass a note to the one you were interested in with these words: “Will you go with me? Check yes or no.” If the person checked yes, then you were officially “going together.” Then you would chase each other on the playground and maybe even sneak in some handholding. Ah, fourth grade.

The infamous fourth grade school picture. Fortunately the years have made me kinder to this poor little girl. What were we thinking with that pixie haircut? Sheesh!

Do you have any memories of fourth grade? Do tell!

Stay tuned for Mrs. Reed’s “Brer Rabbit. . .”

XOXO

Categories
Memoirs

Meeting Mr. Darragh

It was 1966 when I entered second grade. I was tasked with keeping up with my brother Allen on the school bus, making sure he was on it in the afternoon and that he got off the bus in the morning once we arrived at school. He and I were often mistaken for twins, but he is fourteen months younger than I am, so he was in the first grade.

Wasn’t I a dumpling?

My teacher that year was Mrs. Russell, and I fast became one of her favorites. Or at least I thought I was. Maybe every one of her students had the same thought. She chose me to help her make bulletin board pictures, placed me in reading group one (bluebirds, or something of that sort–everyone knew we were the smartest), and sometimes kept me in the room during the last recess to be her helper.

One day as I was working at my desk, a tall slender man with black-rimmed glasses came into the classroom with Principal Moore. Mr. Moore was getting up in years with plans to retire. The man who had come in with him would be our new principal the next school year.

Mr. Darragh spoke to Mrs. Russell and then knelt down by my desk. What was he doing? I’m sure my face turned red, being singled out like that.

“What’s your name, young lady?” he asked, and after I told him, he told me what a pretty little girl I was and what a beautiful name I had. From that point on, Mr. Darragh would go out of his way to talk to me and even took an interest in what I planned to do with my life later on. Once, when I was in high school and saw him in the school cafeteria, he told me he thought I would make an excellent teacher. At the time I had no intention of being a teacher, but God had different plans, and He hinted at them through Mr. Darragh’s remark.

Mr. Darragh, 1968

Second grade was a fun, innocent year of becoming a fast reader, moving to a new house, chasing and being chased by boys on the playground, and enjoying just being a kid growing up in the country. I was blissfully unaware of the Vietnam War, civil rights unrest, the shooting rampage at the University of Texas in Austin, or the marriage of Elvis Presley to Priscilla Beaulieu.

Did you have a fun second grade experience?

XOXO

Categories
Memoirs

Why I’m Surprised (but Grateful)

Here I am, retired and nowhere near where I expected to be at this stage of my life. What happened to those lofty dreams of years ago when I pictured myself in a luxurious mansion sipping cocktails by a pool overlooking the Mediterranean? I guess I killed them. I didn’t choose to kill them. I killed them with my choices.

Choice #1: Going to college instead of joining the Navy. The Navy appealed to me as a high school senior because it promised world travel with a good salary and future retirement benefits. I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend, so I went to college. I also didn’t believe I could make it through basic training because I am basically a wuss when it comes to physical activities. I am not athletic in the least.

Choice #2: I followed my heart while in college. I married before I graduated, and he was young. He had to find a good job and never went to college himself. He did work hard providing for me and our eventual kids, though. He said he wouldn’t change a thing, but sometimes I think he would have been better off waiting. I would have been, too.

Choice #3: Not finishing my pre-med program. I didn’t take Chemistry or Physics in high school because I was afraid of failure, and my first Chemistry class was a disaster. I learned nothing because the teacher wasn’t a good one. I barely passed the second semester under the other teacher, so I decided I would never be able to pass Organic chemistry. I also have a phobia of needles, which people say you get over, but I hate fainting in class (which I did three times).

Choice #4: Not taking Chemistry and Physics in high school. I was scared of the teachers and failure.

Choice #5: Letting fear control my decisions.

I did make other choices affecting my life’s journey, and I’m not saying I regret making easier choices, but I am in a different place than I expected to be. But isn’t that what God is all about? Taking us on new and unexpected journeys? He has blessed me with a loving husband, two beautiful children and their spouses, and three wonderful grandchildren.

My cup is full, although my mansion is a 1961 wood frame three-bedroom home and I might sip coffee or wine on my deck or front porch. Who needs a mansion on the Mediterranean anyway? I have one “just over the hilltop in that bright land where we’ll never grow old” (old church hymn) anyway!

What about you? Have you landed where you least expected? I’d love to hear from you!

XOXO