Monday, August 22, 2022

Reminiscing About School: The First Six Grades

"Reminiscing About School: The First Six Grades"
Darrel L. Hammon
August 2022

Traffic has picked up. The weather is changing. Fall is in the air. School must be in session.

Lately, on social media, posts after posts after posts have popped up over and over about teachers and how incredible they are, posts from parents of their children on their day of school, memes showing the challenges of school and teaching, and posts of teary-eyed moms whose last child leaves the confines of the home and enters the halls of their new schools, and even posts of parents who are elated that their children are finally out of the house for a large portion of the day!

I have always loved this time of year because I have always loved school. To me, a sense of school and learning reverberates all around us! Yes, I moaned and groaned about the bus rides, the challenging students, homework, etc., but I did love it. Maybe that is why I stayed so long, going to so much school to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees, and then having worked in public education for five years and then higher education for almost 25 years. It’s addictive, heartwarming, and challenging simultaneously.

As I read the posts and contemplated my own schooling, I especially remembered the early years of my grade school experiences. I suspect that most of us can remember our first six teachers in grades one through six. I know I can. I appreciate those times so much.

Kindergarten—Never attended. Back in my day, kindergarten was in the summer months, and I moved from Idaho Falls to Menan during that time, and my mother didn’t enroll me. She said I was going to be fine when I enrolled in first grade in the fall. She was right. I was fine, but I have thought over the years that I must have missed out on something.

First grade, Mrs. Williams—What time I had in first grade! So many stories: playing army, sitting in these cool old desks whose tops lifted up, having Jon Poulter share a green crayon with me on my first day because I didn’t have any crayons at the beginning of the year, sitting next to Mary Ann Maloney during reading time, eating lunch for the first time in the cafeteria, and having to stay after school for 30 minutes (my only time) for playing army “out of bounds.”

 Second grade, Mrs. Poole—Now this was a wonderful year! We shared the classroom with a bunch of 1st graders. They had their side; we had ours. One of the things I remember most about second grade was having to eat prunes halfway through the day. Who knows why? Plus, I—or maybe it was someone else—nicknamed Becky Hunter “D’alvin.” Where that came from I don’t know (maybe from Keith Barney), but it seemed to stick.

Third grade, Miss Bowman—Our room had a fire escape that ran along the outside of our room. It was a steel tube that we got to go down once or twice. I remember Curtis Boam and I shared the same birthday, and our mothers brought treats on that day. Plus, I sat in the second row, with Norma Krieger in front of me and Marianne Johnson behind me, two of the best students in our grade and ultimately throughout all of my school. When Miss Bowman read to us, sometimes Norma would reach her hand back, and we would hold hands. What a year!

Fourth Grade, Mrs. Jeppsen—Fourth grade was an eye opener. We had one particular kid who misbehaved often and had some serious confrontations with Mrs. Jeppsen. One time he even threw an eraser at Mrs. Jeppsen, and she chased him around the room. Denece Miller and I vied to be the multiplication champion. Plus, Denece demonstrated how we should eat our food, particularly soup, in a more etiquette way. (Denece, I haven’t forgotten: Scoop the soup away from you!”) My dad came to class once and talked about Japan where he had served in the army. Then, he called out something in Japanese, and this Japanese-looking woman dressed in Japanese clothes came shuffling in. She was impressive, and then I discovered it was my mother dressed in a kimono with her black hair done up! I wasn’t embarrassed by it at all! It was too impressive! Plus, Mrs. Jeppsen read Where the Red Fern Grows, truly a tear-jerker about Old Dan and Little Ann, two dogs. I confess that 4th graders do cry. I tried to do my crying out by the barn on the haystack. I also memorized the poem “Somebody’s Mother” and recited it to the class. I loved fourth grade, and I think I was Mrs. Jeppsen’s pet student! (If any of my fellow classmates has a copy of our 4th-grade class photo, I would love a copy! For some reason, I do not have one. Odd.)

Fifth Grade, Mrs. Park—What a hoot that was! While Mrs. Park was our main teacher, we had a few classes with Miss Andersen who became Sharon Martin’s sister-in-law during that year. I learned the song that had these incredible lyrics in it: “There were green alligators and long-necked geese, some humpy back camels and a chimpanzee, but the loveliest of them all was the unicorn.” Scott DaBell, Denise Harris, Michelle Moedl, and I sang the loudest and possibly a bit out of tune. Someone even climbed out the north window!

Sixth Grade, Mrs. Eames, Mrs. Frew, and Mr. Baldwin—Mrs. Eames was my main teacher in the old lava rock school in Menan. Then, halfway through sixth grade, we moved over to the new Midway Elementary, which really was still in Menan. Our classroom housed all three sections of sixth grade—thus, the addition of Mrs. Frew and Mr. Baldwin. I started wearing glasses that year—big black plastic frames. Jon Poulter emerged as an entrepreneur that year selling pencil erasers, marked with Green Bay Packer football player helmets, numbers, and colors. I learned how to play the flutophone that year in music. Probably the highlight of the year was winning second place in the Modern Woodmen’s speech contest, with Denece Miller winning first—as if that were a surprise!

I could probably go on in every grade, but that would take some time. Seventh and 8th grade in Roberts, 9th grade at Midway Junior High, and grades 10-12 at Rigby High School. There were some great memories and memories that I hope to never remember.

Overall, I loved school. I had great friends, played lots of basketball and softball, laughed and told jokes, rode buses to school almost every single day, learned stuff that I don’t even remember, grew up, and develop certain skills that have helped me throughout my life.

Ah, the beauty of school—of learning, of the challenges of growing up, and of establishing the foundation of what I am today. Would I have changed anything? Maybe. Probably. Most certainly. But I will cherish the memories I do have.

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