(WARNING: TGIM? Just so you know? This is a tad longish. Power through, man! That is all.)
I was just telling my son-- who is bloody well starting the fourth grade this year! FOURTH!-- how much I loved the fourth grade. No. Seriously. LOVED IT. I was all, "Oh my gosh, Buddy! Fourth grade is, like, the best grade EVAH!" Of course he threw right back at me the dreaded, quite often unanswerable, "Why?"
To be honest, let's just say I was not surprised with this trumping of my absolute parental authority on the subject, as this boy has been questioning my totalitarian rule since the day he was born, the little bugger. However, though I was not surprised by the question, I was deeply shocked by my response.
"Because my teacher totally loved me," I proudly informed him and my other children who had gathered 'round, smelling a story. At their collectively raised eyebrows, I assured them: "No, seriously. LOVED ME."
And then it hit me. That woman-- the wondrous teacher I have held in a special "Best Teacher Ever!" place in my heart-- did not love me. Oh, no, no, NO. Indeed she did not! Matter of fact, that woman more than likely hated my stinking guts!
Well, I may overstate the matter a bit. But when I searched my memory for all the absolutely super fantabulous reasons WHY I loved this grade so much, when I looked back with an adult's perspective, an educator's perspective, I made some startling, and I must admit not altogether happy, discoveries.
Why My Fourth Grade Year ROCKED!
Reason #1: Best Teacher EVER.
My teacher, Miss M, helped me meet so many new people. Seriously! I remember sitting next to Joy during the first week of school. Oh, the fun we had! I usually finished my work first, so I would amuse her by sharing witty anecdotes and singing little songs to her as she completed her work. I would also hurry her by periodically asking quietly, "Are you done yet? Because I really want to go play at the Science Center with you. Are you almost finished?! Are you stuck? Number five is '1776.' Write that. COME ON!" Miss M would ask me to be quiet, so I would whisper, "Areyoudoneyetareyoudoneyetareyoudoneyet?..."
The next week, I got to sit by Christopher. I loved him. He had wavy brown hair. Like Donny Osmond. I would hurry through my seat work, then crawl under my desk with my dog-eared copy of Myths and Enchantment Tales and I would pinch his ankles. Oh! The FUN! He would kick at me and I would laugh! Then I would chase him at recess (though I may have been the shortest kid in my grade, I was arguably the fastest runner, as-- hey boy!-- those waffles I ate for breakfast gave me some ZIP!), and when I caught him? I'd give him a big ol' punch in the gut. Because kissing? Gross.
Then, a few weeks later I walked into the classroom and my desk was all the way at the back of room! I kid you not! Right up against the wall! Under the coats and lunch boxes! All by myself! My very own Special Spot, Miss M called it! I could lean my head against the bricks! Which were scratchy! But still COOL. When I finished my work, however, I scanned the room and realized I was a little too far from the nearest girl, Vanessa, to be able to ask her to go to the Reading Center with me. Plus, the bricks were beginning to snag at my naturally curly hair. So I grabbed hold of my desk and scooted my way right up next to her--THUMP! screech!-- looked over her shoulder, and began the "are you done yet?" litany.
Then? One day, y'all? ONE DAY?! I came to class and my desk was right next to Miss M's! RIGHT NEXT TO HER! You can imagine the jealous stares I received. I admit to being a little puffed up in my own esteem, but can you blame me?! I mean, I was, like, the Teacher's PET! Oh, ho, ho! Yes, I was. But this time, when I finished my work? I looked up to a sea of bowed heads stretching before me like the sands of the sea... Huh. What to do, what to do?...
... until I turned to Miss M, who was busy looking over our spelling tests. I watched her for a moment. Then, "What'cha doing with that red pen, Miss M? Are you grading? Is that my test? Did I get 100%? I think I got 100%. Do we get candy if we got 100%? Because I am pretty sure I got 100%. Except I may have missed the bonus word. Is 'accelerator' spelled 'A-C-C-E-L-E-R-A-T-O-R'? That's what I put. You are making a funny face right now. Your lips are thin. Can I help? Do you want me to help? I will help you if you want me to help. I like your red pen. And when's lunch? I'm hungry."
Which brings me to Why My Fourth Grade Year ROCKED!
Reason #2: Lots of Special Projects!
Excerpt from Fourth Grade Diary:
Dec. 10, 1980
Today Miss M let me go to the library all by myself to do a Special Project! Do you know what malaria is? It's a DISEASE. I know because Miss M is letting me do a Report on malaria. I am using an encyclopedia. Which I can spell because Jiminy Cricket sings that song.
P.S. Only 65 more days til Valentine's Day! I hope I get LOTS of valentines!
P.P.S. I love Christopher!
Why My Fourth Grade Year ROCKED!
Reason #3: No Arm Cramps.
In Miss M's class, I did not raise my hand in vain. I did not have to utilize the dreaded Arm Prop, wherein the patient student-- anxiously waiting out the stream of kids who have absolutely no idea what the freaking answer is-- raises her right arm straight in the air, while propping it up with her left hand, her left elbow firmly digging into her desk (chin resting on right arm is optional). I did not have to bounce in my chair doing the "Oh! Oh! I know! OH! Pick me!" thing. She did not say, "Anybody besides Cathy know the answer? Anyone? PLEASE?!" until someone blurted out something. Um, usually me. She did not ignore me. She called on me. First. Every time I raised my hand. Which was, well, every time she asked a question. And, granted, sometimes I forgot what I was going to say, but I always managed to stutter out some pearl of wisdom, such as, "Um, uh, why do you wear braces on your teeth when you are a grown-up?" and Miss M would unfailingly respond with something kind, then add "Thank you for sharing that, Cathy!" before moving on. And I would beam with pleasure and look around at all the others to make sure they were sharing in my greatness.
Gosh. I hearted Miss M. I did. So, SO much. I was utterly devastated when she up and got married, then left us to go on her honeymoon. And, boy, that first substitute did not take kindly to my gentle hints on how things were supposed to be done in Miss M's Fourth Grade Class, I tell you what!
"Um, excuse me, but that's not the way Miss M gives us our spelling words."
"Wait. That's not the way Miss M takes our lunch orders."
"Hey! We are supposed to line up shortest to tallest! That's how Miss M does it!"
"Miss M does not say 'Zip Your Lip'!"
"But Miss M always lets me go to the library when I finish my work! I need to use the encyclopedia!... Want me to spell that for you?"
I recall that we went through a few substitutes, but then Miss M came back-- or Mrs. H, as we now had to call her, GOSH! HARD to REMEMBER!-- and things got back to normal.
So there you have it. Definitive proof that my fourth grade year rocked. Except... not.
You know what? An adult perspective SUCKS, that's what.
I don't know where you are or what you are doing now, but GOSH! I am so, SO sorry, Miss M who is now Mrs. H! From the bottom of my bossy, hyperactive, nine-year-old, know-it-all heart!
Thank you for making me feel special and smart, even though I must have driven you INSANE.
Thank you for giving me Special Projects instead of piles of busy work.
Thank you for explaining how hiccoughs work, and why grown-ups sometimes wear braces on their teeth, and how sometimes, yes, lady teachers DO look a little scary when they forget to wear makeup to school.
Thank you for treating me with respect and love. You were the first teacher to give me that.
It is teachers such as you who make a world of difference in a child's life. I hope my little Tater Tot gets teachers JUST LIKE YOU. Oh, yes, I DO. Because, poor darling, she's just like me. My spitting image. And God knows she is going to need them.
- LadyBug commented:
That was so very sweet, Cat. And this was a GREAT read!
In that first part ("Best Teacher EVER"), the fourth grade Cat sounded just. like. Junie B. Jones.
And did you know that every time you say (well, type, anyway), "I tell you what," I automatically hear Hank Hill's voice, which means, in my head, you sound like Hank Hill? Did you know that? 'Cause you do. But only when you say "I tell you what." And did you know that I loooove Hank Hill? 'Cause I do. And can you tell that my caffeine just kicked in? 'Cause it did.
- » 9/16/2005 8:43 AM
- kalki commented:
If causing a reader to howl with laughter and then get weepy is the sign of good writing (and it is!) then you, my friend, are a fabulous writer. Which you are. Which I already knew.
And I hope TGYM made it all the way through because it's totally worth it. ;)
- » 9/16/2005 9:24 AM
Nice post, Cat. On lunch break here... Have a great day!!!
- » 9/16/2005 10:05 AM
- Weetzie commented:
Ooooh Cat! This is amazing and it makes me understand why I am NOT a teacher! ((hugs))
- » 9/16/2005 10:12 AM
- john boy commented:
Hahahaha! That was great and very revealing and realistic. As an educator I know your type well, sometimes refered to as a classroom terrorist :)
- » 9/16/2005 10:57 AM
- Michele in Michigan commented:
I absolutely LOVED this post! It brought back MANY memories--are you sure that we weren't twins?
Very well-written; I was right THERE with you LOL
Longtime reader here
- » 9/16/2005 11:25 AM
- Ern commented:
You are too funny, and a great writer. One of my favorite combinations! And you are sooo right about the adult perspective.
Miss M. was a great teacher, with the patience of a saint.
- » 9/16/2005 11:35 AM
- Cat commented:
Patience of a saint is RIGHT! But "Classroom Terrorist"? RUDE. Okay, but totally true! :) Good LORD I must have been a handful!
Thanks for the nice words, y'all. It was so funny to remember back, and to see it all in a new, albeit less flattering, light. I wonder what DID ever happen to Mrs. H? She must have been in her mid-20's, if that, come to think of it. Did I drive her into an early retirement? Career change? Nervous breakdown? Hmmm... This is worth looking into!
- » 9/16/2005 11:49 AM
- not-so-normal mom commented:
It is totally worth looking into....My absolute favorite year was 3rd grade, because of my favorite teacher that I'm sure loved me! Now...oh so many years later, her son is a professor at the college where I work, and I often gaze at him with fond memories. I loved your post, and it soooo reminded my of my middle son, and I think tonight, I will read it to him so that he knows he is not alone. It was truly wonderful and it shows your sprite-like spirit and energy. You're awesome!
- » 9/16/2005 12:18 PM
- Nessa commented:
oh my gosh - she totally loved you!
- » 9/16/2005 1:25 PM
- Amy commented:
This was awesome. Love the mental picture of you with your arm propped up. I bet your teachers still think of you.
Grade three was my best. Miss Kendall was pretty and i was her pet. She gave me a cardboard toothbrush holder that was shaped like a (square) apple. And she got married halfway through the year, too! Then we had to call her Mrs. Vasilak.
Ahhh, school days. My big kid just started grade FIVE.
- » 9/16/2005 3:20 PM
- mrtl commented:
I totally taught you in sixth grade.
- » 9/16/2005 5:54 PM
- Andrea commented:
I was thinking EXACTLY what ladybug did, that you sounded like Junie B. Jones :)
I came in via Kalki's link looking for your rockin' kitchen...I'm going back to look for it again now!
- » 9/16/2005 8:59 PM