Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grade School Memories Stay Fresh, For Better or Worse

Grade School Memories Stay Fresh, For Better or Worse

As long as I can remember education has been an important aspect of my life and continues to be. My parents moved to the country so we could learn how they lived when they grew up, and about animals and work.

Their idea of education was the actual doing without really saying how imperative it was in their lives. I became educated about the country life without knowing I was. There is something about learning how to work by doing chores, inside and out, taking care of animals, shoveling snow for neighbors, building fence, hauling hay, picking potatoes, hoeing beets, driving potato truck, moving pipe, and doing a host of other things some people will never, ever experience.

On the academic side, my older brother and sister told me that school was fun. I watched what they were doing. They share anything I asked them. I didn’t need to go to kindergarten because my mother told me I already knew everything they were going to teach me. In essence, my older siblings showed me how great education really was.

I remember them coming home from Templeview Elementary in Idaho Falls, telling me tales of fun–how they got to color, write the alphabet, read stories about Dick and Jane and good old Spot, the mutt that used to “run and jump” almost every other page. They would bring home books to read and math assignments to do. They taught me about numbers by showing me what addition and subtraction were. It seemed easy, and I wanted to do it too. It just seemed like the thing to do.

They taught me my ABC’s and a few things about the readers they had. Probably the best thing they taught me was the fun they had at school and the field trips to the bakery, the Post Register, the fire station, and other cool places.

Then it was my turn to go to school–first grade at Lewisville Elementary, an ancient two-story rock building sitting on the edge of the “the grove,” which was comprised of dozens and dozens of huge cottonwood trees. (They tell me they have been torn down.)

My first impression was solely tears, mainly because my sister Telecia was scheduled to go to Menan Elementary as a third-grader instead of staying with me at Lewisville. I didn’t want to be alone, and my tears forced Mrs. Williamson, the principal, to change her to my school. And that was the first day. I think Telecia still resents having to stay with her little brother because after the first week I was fine. Go figure.

Mrs. Williams was my first-grade teacher. My desk was one of those with a lift off top. The seat was attached. My first impression was “Wow!” Here I was in school. For some reason, I had forgotten my crayons or mom hadn’t bought them yet. Fortunately, my first friend in first grade loaned me a brown one. Jon became one of my best friends throughout school–all because of box of Crayola crayons and the army.

Somehow I became the self-appointed leader of Mrs. Williams’ first grade army. We rode imaginary horses. We would slap our thighs, and our horses would rear their stoic heads. We then raced and pranced around the east side of the building, in and out of the swing sets, around the merry-go-round, and through the maze of girls. We were a great army.

One morning recess, we rode our horses out by the bus shop building, which was off limits to school kids. I thought it would be all right if I lined up my army against the cinder block building to discuss our next mission.

While I was busily outlining the next maneuver, a third grader came walking up to us. This third grader was different because he had on a bright orange shoulder strap and his pad of paper that he took names on.

“Hey, kid,” he said, pointing at me.

“Yes, Sir,” I returned, standing at attention. My dad had been a policeman, and I knew how to talk to law enforcement. Hopefully, I could get off with just a warning.
“Ah...did you know you aren’t supposed to be over here by the bus shop?”

“No, Sir.” The rest of the kids were a bit panicky by now. I tried to act calm.

“Well, you aren’t, so I’m going to take your name and give it to your teacher. What’s your name?” he said as he poised his pencil to write.

I had to give him my name. It was my duty to be honest. Besides, if I hadn’t, I probably would have gotten into more trouble than I already had. He began writing my name down on his new pad of paper.

By the time the third grade patrolman finished, my army had already dispersed, and I was all alone on the playground. Here I was, a first grader who had been the leader of the army, and now I stood in the middle of the playground not really knowing what would happen next. It wasn’t long, however, until I knew.

Mrs. Williams called me outside into the hall after lunch and told me I had to stay after school for one half hour. I was shattered, and tears welled up in my eyes. Whatever happened to the fun times that my older brother and sister told me about? I couldn’t even play army without running into trouble.

I went into the next room where there was a phone and dialed home. It took me forever to dial those seven digits. Mom answered it on the second ring.


“Mom....” I couldn’t finish for awhile.

“What's the matter, son?”

A long pause and then, “I have to stay after school.” I don’t really remember what I said after that. Maybe Mrs. Williams took the phone and told mom the situation and what time she needed to pick me up after school. I just remember crying. My very first trouble at school–I vowed it would be my last, and it was.

It was the longest 30 minutes I remember ever spending, although I don’t remember exactly what I did. Frankly, I really don’t care.

We still played army after that, but we didn’t go close to the bus shop. We all had learned our lesson: I, the hard way, and the rest of them vicariously through me.
From that day, we all dreamed of becoming third graders so we could wear the bright orange bandalo and carry around our little pad of paper and pencil and “educate” unwary first graders who ventured beyond the school bounds.

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