We have just entered August and school is starting up all over the country.
I was talking with @francoisome, who has a blog called Muse-ings (it is on the Blogroll to the right), about school starting so early.
She is a teacher and we started talking about how school used to be. It would start after Labor Day and end by Memorial Day. Three glorious months for kids to play, explore, maybe even read. Vacation with the family. Time to be a kid.
I really think that time is important for children, but I am not in charge. So school starts earlier and runs later. Scores don’t show any noticeable improvement. And let’s be clear, teachers these days are increasingly stuck with teaching to the test in some parts of the country.
Let’s go back a few years. Okay almost 50 years.
I went to Catholic grade school. Sacred Heart, to be exact. Mostly nuns for teachers. Just a few lay teachers.
Remember what the first day of school was like.
You were loaded down with new school supplies. Wearing your best school clothes. The girls had uniforms. White shirts and plaid skirts. Nervous and anxious at the same time.
What was the teacher going to be like? Who am I sitting in front of ? The room seems so big. I miss home.
We were usually put in alphabetical order. Which meant you could stare at the back of the same head for eight years.
Everything had that first day of school smell to it.
It would take a few days to settle into a routine.
After we got to the room and attendance was taken, we lined up at the door and walked to church. Prayer and education go hand in hand. There are no atheists in foxholes or at test time. The mass in the first few years was still done in Latin.
Remember learning how to print and then write? Going from those big red pencils to real No. 2 pencils.
Learning addition and subtraction. Flash cards.
Nuns were , let’s say, focused when it came to teaching. There wasn’t a lot of extra time for goofing around. And punishment was swift and sure.
If you were called on, you had to stand. If you didn’t know the answer, you could be standing for a while just to let it sink in that attention must be paid. It was an effective method.
Not to say that we didn’t learn other things too. Every swear word I know today was taught by my classmates. How to take the ink liner out of a Bic pen and turn it into a spitball weapon.
Sacred Heart used to have a carnival once a year during school. Half the school would spend the morning out with the rides, games and they eben brought ponies for us to ride. The other half would gather in the school basement and watch a movie. The only one I remember was Knute Rockne: All-American. The nuns cried and cried during the “Win one for the Gipper” speech.
Late in my fifth grade year, we moved to a new house in a different parish. We finished the school year out at Sacred Heart. Said goodbye to friends. Very sad times.
St. Henry’s was the next stop. It was within walking distance. About a quarter of a mile. Unless my kids read this some day, then it was 5 miles uphill both ways as Bill Cosby says.
It was pretty much the same at the new school. Except that we were moving into the late ’60’s.
A guitar was used at mass.
One of the music teachers,Sister Bonaventure allowed us to listen to Simon and Garfunkel. Sounds of Silence. Trust me, that was a VERY big deal back then.
I was never an altar boy, but in eight grade I was a crossing guard. We wore bright orange belts with a strap that went over one shoulder. Oh, the power. It was the first time that I realized how much I enjoyed being in charge, now that I think of it.
For our eight grade graduation, they had a breakfast for us after we got our diplomas.
I am not one for going back necessarily. I would, however, make an exception here.
If someone could wave a magic wand and put all of us back in that room for one last reunion, I would be in. The friends I made in grade school were special to me. Maybe it was the Catholic training we all survived. Foxhole buddies.
Sacred Heart and St. Henry are closed these days. Parochial school education costs too much for the neighborhoods those schools were in. The buildings are still there. And bouncing around those walls are the faint echoes of children saying the Pledge , getting their 1st period books out and starting another day.
Thanks @francoisome for giving me the inspiration for this post and thanks for being a teacher.