The prompt for today:
How did you feel about the start of the school year growing up?
As far as I remember, I was usually excited—at least after 7th grade or so. School up to that point was so intensely boring that I couldn’t wait to get out of it so I could go back to whatever I was reading or doing in the woods somewhere. I hated second grade so much that I think I spent most of it napping in the school clinic (we had one with several little alcoves and beds. I think I may have been having migraines, honestly).
Up until 7th grade, it seemed that the first half of every year was spent reviewing what was done the previous year because so many people didn’t really learn it or forgot everything during the summer. I kept thinking, “I’m here why? They could just tell the rest of us when the review is over. I’m wasting my life here!” I think it’s telling that I spent much of the 4th and 5th grades acting as an unofficial substitute teacher and didn’t miss a bloody thing by not being in my own class.
In 7th grade, we finally started doing more serious academic work. That’s the first year that I recall any science content that could actually be called science since we had lab assignments. Before that, we had little texts about animals and geology and the planets, but it was all so elementary that it might as well have been a stack of Little Golden Books. The only difference was that we had little vocabulary tests and the occasional find-a-word puzzle related to the content. (Dear elementary teachers: You’re doing it wrong, or you certainly were in the 70s! I learned a lot more by reading through the public library and messing around with the microscope and lab kits I got for Christmas one year. Although I think maybe the lab kit was meant for my sister and she didn’t want it, so I ended up with it.)
I also had my first truly outstanding teacher that year, Ms. Keifer. I think her first name might have been Karole Ann, but I’m not sure. In any case, she taught English at Lilburn Middle School, and I was in her homeroom. She was wonderful! She gave me a copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with one caveat: I had to pass them on to someone else when I finished them.
Back then, the Braves gave out free tickets to Atlanta area students who made straight A’s. I won tickets several years in a row, as I recall. I didn’t honestly care to go, but it was a family obligation thing, so I did — with whichever volume of LOTR I was reading at the moment in hand. Daddy had a great laugh when we encountered another family sitting near us whose son had won tickets. Their son had his nose in another volume of LOTR!
It definitely helped that my cousin, Lori Goss, taught me how to put on makeup during a visit back home to Gadsden that year, which boosted my confidence a lot. I don’t remember if her big sister Kim cut my hair into “wings” or how that happened (I do remember the perm Aunt Bet gave me, which was my first).