Friday, September 7, 2007

Sentimental Education- Part 1

School resumed this week in Chicago and the big yellow buses are a reminder of just how much I hated going to school. While I was a good student and had lots of friends and did lots of extracurricular activities I just plain hated going to school. All those rules and regulations, do this and do that- who needs it? But now I am a college teacher so go figure.

From Montessori until I graduated from high school I went to school everyday with my father. Each morning we would get up and have breakfast- the same thing, cereal. After 1700 of these breakfasts before my 18th birthday I now refuse to eat cereal. (The last time was in England a few years ago when my alternative was a “healthy” full English breakfast.)

Our conversation consisted of this: Dad: Eat your flakes. Me: OK.

The sum total of 14 years of weekday morning conversation- 4 words.

Several of those years my dad had a Volkswagon I had to push to get it started and then run to catch up to the car a la Little Miss Sunshine. These moments with my dad were often the highlight of my school day. It was downhill - literally from that start- from there.

So with apologies to Gustave Flaubert below are a series of highlights (lowlights?) of my early education.

Montessori- My grandmother, Kakky, picked me up and asked me what I learned today. I said, “I don’t know.” She said you were in school all day and didn’t learn anything? Oh to have been able to shift into my adult head and say, “You know it was all that 2+2 is 4 and ABC bullshit. Give me a break grandma!.” Instead I said something like “we used crayons” and hoped for unconditional grandmotherly love.

Second grade- Luckily I was allowed to skip first grade, I don’t think I could have handled any more rudimentary education. However, skipping a grade made me forever the youngest in my class.

Fourth grade- Each weekend Mrs. Hackworth (a sometime reader of this page) made the class memorize a poem and be prepared to recite it in front of the class on Monday morning. Now as every fourth grader knows poems rhyme, that’s the definition of poetry, right? Evidently not. Mrs. H. gave us “real poetry” the crap that doesn’t rhyme or make any sense. Poetry and public speaking- I’m in fourth grade this is not Victorian England! Note to Mrs. Hackworth, thanks to you I still have trouble sleeping on Sunday nights in anticipation of failing my poetry reading.

Fifth grade- An insane woman comes to our class room and speaks only in French to us. She refuses to allow any English. This is funny for the first five minutes, then we think she is seriously disturbed. This continues for days and weeks. Finally I burst out, “Je vais a la salle de bains.” Where this comes from even surprises me but my point is made and I was allowed to escape to the bathroom. (I know it really means “I go to the bathroom” but we had covered “May I” yet.)

Seventh Grade- By now I am thoroughly ensconced in the third ring of education Hell. Our assignment is to write a science report and make an oral presentation to the rest of the seventh grade on a topic picked randomly from a hat. My pick: the reproductive process of amphibians. No, nothing safe an easy like the Big Bang (at least my school believed in that) . Being good (strict?) parents I had to rehearse my speech in front of them. I do not know what is worse, talking about frog sperm in front of my parents or in front of 50 7th graders.

Ninth Grade- What is with this incessant need for my teachers to insist on memorization and public speaking? Draconian Mr. Grunwald makes the class memorize the Declaration of Independence from the preamble through the charges section. (Even then I was certain this is something that I would never need to do at any time of my life.) Then, over the course of a month he randomly picked students to recite passages to the class. So I memorized the damn thing and he never called on me!

That’s enough for now I am having bad flashbacks.


1 comment:

denise said...

another lovely thing we have in common-i was always the youngest in my class... not from skipping, but from some podunk pennsylvania age rule. i was laughing the whole time i was reading, but at "frog sperm" i guffawed out loud.