Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Remembering First Grade

When my education began, there was no kindergarten offered at my school. Because my birthday falls so late in the year, I was almost six when I started my education. Almost six years at home on the farm with no children's television programs, no Sesame Street, meant I badgered my poor mother to teach me to read. Her answer was invariably "You will learn to read in school." Her strategy was sound - I could not wait to get to school to learn to read.

The red brick schoolhouse was in the tiny berg of Gordon, Kansas and consisted of one large room handily divided by a large accordion partition. First through fifth grades were on the north side, and six through eight were on the south side.

A few grades ahead were two brothers with outlandish and ugly Mohawk haircuts. The younger brother was freckled, sullen and usually mean on the playground. The older brother, Bruce, was sweet tempered, tall, blue-eyed and quite beautiful. He was in fourth grade and sometimes helped the first graders with assignments. He was patient and kind. He was gentle. Sometimes he would smile at me and I fell in love with him. Bruce was my first love - despite the Mohawk.

One day the only pencil sharpener was mysteriously clogged with a crayon, so everyone was specifically ordered to never sharpen crayons again. As soon as the teacher turned her back, I tried to sharpen my white crayon. It was Bruce who paid the price for my willful disobedience. He had to clear the pencil sharpener. I do not remember being blamed for this act of defiance, but I remember Bruce's ears turning red in frustration as he struggled to remove the crayon.

Boys and rebellion aside, I learned to read so well in that tiny little school house that when I entered second grade in the big town of Douglass, I was the best reader in my class. I do not suppose little kids now will ever know what it is to impatiently wait to learn to read. They are given their letters and numbers and words almost as soon as they talk now. They have Sesame Street and an infinite supply of learning toys. They probably will never remember when they could not read. I guess that is good.


Anonymous said...

I can barely remember last week! (and that's fading quickly)

Li'l Ned said...

I remember that longing to read, and that promise by my mother that I would learn as soon as I got to 1st grade. We did have kindergarten, but they waited for 1st grade to start teaching reading. Hard to believe nowadays, since kids get crammed with stuff practically from birth.

I experienced the same longing and powerful curiosity while awaiting my first piano lesson. WHAT were all those keys on the piano!? How could you tell which one was which?! I started at the relatively late age of 10 and 1/2, but took off like a house afire.

Oh, the longing for knowledge! I think some of us have it stronger than others, but as humans babies we all long to figure out how the world works and get out into it.