Write about the tools you wrote with in elementary school. Give details of your classroom, the people in it, and what kind of kid you were. Mix in action with the descriptions.
I went to two different schools for elementary school, and both experiences were as different from each other as night and day.
My first school, Corlett, was awesome. It was a small school, K–3 only, and the teachers were nurturing and I learned a lot. I loved my first and third grade teachers–Mrs. Ortman and Mrs. Oden–like I loved my mom, and I even liked Ms Dukes, my second grade teacher, even though she was more strict than the other two. My principal’s name was Mr. Sunshine. What a great name for a principal right? He really was a ray of sun. I loved when he’d visit our class or I’d see him in the lunchroom. He always called me Harmonica. I remember Ms. Lindsey, the lunch lady who’d bang on the table with a broomstick to quiet us down. I hated when she did that!
First grade was on the first floor, down the hall from the girl’s bathroom. It was kind of a dark room. Mrs. Ortman would sing songs to us like “head, shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes.” We had grey desks that opened and held all of our stuff, including oil cloths, which smelled SO GOOD. Mrs. Ortman’s desk was in the corner of the room. Sometimes she’d do this weird exercise where she’d stand in one part of the room and say “May I have your attention please?” and we’d all look at her, and then she’d go somewhere else and say “May I have your attention please?” and we’d turn to look at her there. I am still not quite sure the point of that, but I certainly remember it. I also remember winning second place in a citywide writing contest. The essay was titled “What I Like Best About Cleveland.” I remember one of the prizes was McDonald’s gift certificates. I still have my actual certificate for it.
Second grade was also on the first floor, on the other side of the school. I remember the room being very bright. I also remember getting the Weekly Reader and being very excited the week that Michael Jackson was on the cover. This was the year I got paddled. It didn’t hurt, but I made a big to do anyway. I also got my first detention in second grade.
Third grade was golden. I loved everything about it except looking up words in the dictionary. Vocabulary was so boring, tedious, and hard. (Funny, now I LOVE looking in the dictionary.) I remember the room having a warm glow, but that may have been how I felt when I was in there. Mrs. Oden made a wonderful learning environment.
I remember writing with a laddie pencil in first grade. Big, blue, no erasers on top. I was so excited to move on to No.2 pencils in second and third grade! And sometimes… even pen!
People were surprised that I loved school so much, but I had fun there. No one picked on me, I had friends, and the teachers liked me. The work came pretty easy to me, and I was always doing cool jobs like being the messenger or student leader.
Things changed when I switched schools.
I lived in Cleveland, so I was bussed to the west side for grades 4–6. Here, I learned what it was like to see other children get favored. I started learning about racism and discrimination. I learned that some teachers are mean and that they pick on students that trigger their own issues within themselves. I also learned that students can be mean and heartless.
But I also found unlikely friendships, and started nurturing my creative side. I took up orchestra, playing the violin. I started writing. I developed an insatiable thirst for reading that my mother was all too happy to keep supplying for. I was learning French and long division and all sorts of advanced things because I was in the honors program.
I’m sure I used pens and pencils through those years. I remember in fourth grade, Ms. Theis’s room being really bright and open. She had a picture of a hippo with a speech balloon that said “I don’t care how you do it, as long as you do it my way.” She taught us to say “ask” instead of “ax” and “library” instead of “liberry.” It was in her room that I read The Secret Garden–the good one where Mary says “I don’t give a tinker’s damn what they think.” It was also in her room that I fell in love with reading. She had a library and I’d check books out all the time. The one I remember the most was called The Secret Circle, but it wasn’t the Vampire Diaries one. I used to read it over and over and eat these cookies that Duncan Hines made. They were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and FREAKING DELICIOUS. I was so sad when they were discontinued–they were far superior to Soft Batch cookies. (Is Soft Batch even still around?)
me in fourth grade
Fifth grade was hell for me. I hated it. I hated the teacher, I hated most of my classmates, and I felt that the room was oppressive and dank. I cried almost every day over something and everyone made fun of me for it. I had exactly one friend. Everyone else couldn’t stand me. The teacher would provoke me to make me cry, and then make fun of me for it, and encourage everyone else to join in. It was awful. She enjoyed humiliating me and putting me on the spot. My son is in fifth grade now, and I pray every day it’s a million times better for him.
I escaped into books every chance I got. My mom would do her “big shopping” at Giant Eagle and they had a great children’s book section. I loved “big shopping” days. I’d come home from school and the place would be stocked with treats and there would be a huge stack of new books for me to read. That’s when I started reading books by Janet Adele Bloss, Judy Blume, and Barthe DeClements. BOY could I relate to her title “Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade”.
Sixth grade was better. Ms. Doycich was a fantastic teacher. She’d get so mad that steam would pour out of her ears, and it was fun to watch. I wasn’t much more adjusted than I was in fifth grade. I never figured out why I was so much more sensitive than usual. (I’ve always been highly sensitive, but fifth grade was terrible). Maybe it was because I’d had two deaths in the family and I was fragile. I don’t know. I managed to get by somehow. Maybe it was because I finally managed to make a few friends. I was so comfortable with people that I wrote my first story, about a bunch of us trapped in a haunted house. I wrote it in a Michael Jackson notebook.
Maybe it was the new principal we got named Mr. Trask. Mr. Trask was amazing. First and foremost, he LOVED Mickey Mouse. I mean, you think *I* lke Mickey Mouse? This is child’s play compared to this man. Secondly, he was FUN. I loved when he came to visit the classroom. He was always laughing and smiling. He would arrange amazing events for us, like giving us the afternoon off so we could watch Mary Poppins, drink pop, and eat popcorn. NO SCHOOL WOULD EVER DO OR ALLOW THAT NOW. He’d often gather us for an “assembly” to watch Laurel and Hardy movies. It was a great way to break up the monotony of class and keep us engaged.
mr trask, mrs arnold, and me
good lord, that dress
I often wonder what happened to Mr. Trask. I hope he’s retired and living in Celebration, FL, a hop, skip, and a jump from Disney World.
I’m not sure if this post told much about ME. I suppose you can gather that I was sensitive, creative, and a bit lonely. I didn’t write a lot in those days, but I read like crazy once that door was opened to me. I’ve never lost my passion and love for reading, so in that aspect, I’m still the same.