One would think that memories from our younger childhood years would be few and far between. However, I have very specific memories from first through third grade. I attended a Catholic elementary school in Elmwood Park with my older brother.
Before I turned 5 and was entered into an all-day kindergarten, we had recently moved to the place where my parents reside today. Our new neighbors had three children similar in age. Needless to say, we became very close friends.
I still remember getting through that year of kindergarten and having a graduation. I knew that the next year would be different. I would be in a new part of the school, wearing a uniform and I would have a completely new teacher. The new teacher aspect wasn’t so scary because from what I remember, I did not like my kindergarten teacher and she did not like me. Especially after I put Elmer’s glue on my hands, let it dry and imitated her and her wrinkly hands. Karma will probably get me for that one. My first grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Wiley. She was an older woman and probably the best teacher to get right out of kindergarten. She was very nice and I remember thinking, “she is my favorite teacher.” Well, she was the second teacher I ever had, but it was a step up from kindergarten.
Something I will always remember from elementary school is how hot it was in class when the school year first started. We didn’t have air conditioning but we were allowed to bring water bottles. My mom would freeze them over night, then cover them with a paper towel and foil so they stayed cold. Our uniforms were not very comfortable when it was hot. We would just be stuck to all of our chairs after sitting for a couple hours. Sometimes they allowed us to wear regular clothes. We didn’t have a playground, just the asphalt between the school and the church, then the parking lot. I had a lot of skinned knees.
In second grade, I had Mrs. Stout. I don’t like to make fun of teachers, but she was exactly what her name described, stout. I always felt bad that some of the kids would make fun of her because she wobbled when she walked. Some kids don’t know any better at that age. I don’t remember much from that school year but I do remember she liked me because she had already had my brother and knew we were good kids. I think that was the year that I peed in my pants. I do remember having to go so bad when we were in gym. We were playing kickball in the parking lot and I didn’t go to the bathroom before so when I asked the gym teacher, Ms. Bass, to go to the bathroom, she said no because then someone else would have to escort me back inside and it was too much work for her, I guess. Well, we had about 10 minutes left and I remember starting to cry because I had to go so bad. I was in the outfield and I sat down and just went. It was like my bladder gave in. No one really noticed when I stood up there was a puddle. When I think about that now, I’m not embarrassed at all. It was my gym teacher’s fault. This gym teacher later on went on to be my ballet teacher. Let’s just say, I always went to the bathroom before her class.
Third grade was an interesting year, to say the least. I had Mrs. Nicholas. Again, I felt lucky because she had my brother and liked our family. It was my first memory of trying to work hard to impress a teacher. I wanted to live up to my brother’s reputation as a student. Our classroom was in the basement of the school so it was always chilly. As much as I felt I tried to be her teacher’s pet, I felt she was beginning to not like me. She would yell at me for making noise with my pencil, she accused me of cheating when I wasn’t, and for the talent show we were forced to be in, we performed “Think,” and I put someone else’s costume on by mistake. I remember so vividly going to look for the clothes my mom had put in a plastic grocery bag. Well, everyone’s mom’s put their clothes in plastic grocery bags. Someone put their bag on my hook. So, naturally I put those clothes on. They were a bit big so I figured they must have been my mom’s when she was younger. Wrong. When I came back in the classroom, my teacher was very upset with me, assuming I did it to be malicious while this other girl is crying because she couldn’t find her clothes, the ones I was wearing. That is the last memory I have from that year. I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Reflecting on all those memories, the good and the bad, I believe they have helped me to know and understand the kind of teacher I want to be. Those years are so important and I certainly would like to have a student of mine remember how nice I was rather than how I didn’t allow them to go to the bathroom, leading to them having an accident.