Third Grade…

I had a crush on Chara H. There was talk of meeting on the sidewalk after school and kissing.

Karen H. was curious about what Beverly S. looked like while sitting on the toilet. Karen climbed onto the toilet paper roller and hoisted herself up the divider separating the bathroom stalls. The metal toilet paper holder didn’t hold and Karen tumbled down. Her knee ripped into a long jagged portion of the dispenser. All of this we found out later. The immediate aftermath was the entire class standing just outside the classroom door watching as the school nurse and our teacher Mrs. S. improvised a wheel chair from a wooden desk chair. They seemed frantic as they tilted back the chair and dragged the seated Karen H. backwards down the shiny clean and very wide school hall. There went Karen, seated, facing us and disappearing away down the hall. She was crying rhythmically. There was blood on the floor and at the edges of the towel wrapped against her knee. And for me, a certain loss of innocence and with it the blooming of excitement with the knowledge that one girl was trying to look at another girl because she had her pants down.

More blood: Eric C. held a very sharp point-end-up pencil just over the seat of the desk chair as Dominick L. dropped down. Scream. Mrs. S. seemed anxious ushering a howling Dominick out of the room and off to the school nurse. The entire class watched. We could see the blood soaking through the back of Dominick’s pants.

We made clay sculptures. They were stored in the closet and someone smashed mine. He was punished and Mrs. S. let me make another. I was pleased with the way it was handled and learned first-hand the redemptive power of justice.

Miss T., the school librarian, taught me a trick to correctly spell “together”: break it into “To Get Her.” Now I can’t spell the word without thinking of it this way.  And I still can’t spell.

Our entire third grade class piloted an experimental approach to learning called PLAN. I had no idea then or now what it stands for. They broke down the walls between classes and installed accordion style separators like the ones in conference center banquet halls. During math and reading, the accordions were pushed in and it was one big classroom, a long bee hive of activity. PLAN was created for each student to learn at his or her own pace. Everyone had the same curriculum, which was divided into units. Each unit had lessons and activities each student did on their own, and group discussions facilitated by a teacher. I assume the thinking was that everyone would progress at their natural pace: smart kids would sprint through units and get more and more knowledge while classmates in possession of fewer neurons would go at a speed that challenged but did not frustrate, and also did not hold others back. The idealistic ex hippies (this was the 1970s) failed to consider, however, additional variables that dictated how fast a student might want to go. Like plain old laziness, interest in a particular unit, distraction, the desire to go though the units with friends, etc. A teacher told me harshly at one point that I was taking too long on a unit. The unit was making a snowman from Ivory Snow Flakes. The lesson was probably geared to teach measurement or creativity, or perhaps it was a reward dangled to incentivize us to move at a reasonable pace. It started with mixing a big bowl full of pure white and fresh-smelling Ivory Snow Flakes and water, and making a little snowman with the resulting soft mounds of soap. I had seen others reach this unit and was crazy excited about doing it myself. I finally got there, hands deep in soft warm soap of my own making, so of course I was going to take my fucking time. And I was playing by the rules. Move at your own pace. So, teacher who looked upon me with disapproval and told me to get going, screw you. Not surprisingly, the experiment was considered a failure and the walls were back up the following year.

Beverly S, yes the same one of the bathroom stall peeping incident, told me how to induce vomiting to get yourself sent home. Mix mustard with warm water and chug. I never tested this, but she told me she offered it from experience and I believe her.

I never did kiss Chara, but I thought about it a lot.

Adam and Jack start third grade today.

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  • Louisa Shipnuck  On August 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I love this!!!! Your storytelling is awesome…

    Sent from Louisa Shipnuck

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