Monthly Archive: September 2008

Remember This? #6 Tetherball

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This one comes with a story about my Marsha Brady moment (remember the wayward football episode, the one where she’d invited Davy Jones to play at the prom?).

I don’t think I’ve ever won a game of tetherball, and today at recess, I decided it was time to reschool myself. If you think I’d have an advantage because I was twice as tall as my 8-year-old opponent, you’d be wrong. He was strong for a little guy! Halfway into the game, he whipped the yellow ball around the pole hard…and it smacked me squarely in the nose. The ball made a loud slapping sound upon contact with my face.

My first reaction was panic — my 10-year high school reunion activities start tomorrow. It would not have amused me at all to accessorize my red cocktail dress with a nose splint and have to explain that a tubby little 3rd grader beat me up on the tetherball court. I think I’d rather lie and say I got a nose job. I spent the rest of recess with a chilled, lavender-scented beanbag from the nurse’s office over my nose. I thought looking ridiculous on the playground was better than doing the same at the reunion. My nose throbs a little now but isn’t swollen or bruised — thank you, little baby Jesus.

Sigh…I still haven’t ever won a game of tetherball.

Melia passed the third grade!

I’m officially done with third grade — high five!

It’s a good thing, because I’m out of scary stories. I had to mine the Internet for stories like “The Hairy Toe” and “The Hook.” After three days of constantly performing, I felt like the kids’ little trained monkey, dancing on command. Turns out, that kind of popularity is exhausting. I hid out in the teachers’ lounge at lunch and enjoyed some grown-up conversation that didn’t conclude with the words “And she was never heard from again.”

I’m still not sleeping much, 5-6 hours per night. I’ve been going nonstop since school started and tend to write until the wee hours of the dawn. I may be the most workaholic elementary school student that ever lived. Tomorrow I’m stopping in at school to check out Picture Day, and then I’m taking the rest of the day off to do errands and pick up my boyfriend Darren, who’s visiting from Mississippi.

Here are a few highlights of this week, which I’ll try to expand upon in later posts:

  • The most caring reaction I’d ever seen to a boy crying in class, and the cultural shift that I think may be responsible for it.
  • A mini “School of Rock” in one third grade class that teaches kids a large part of the curriculum through music.
  • The first school award I’ve gotten in many moons, and how I felt about it.
  • Illustrating a story about a dragon and not wanting to stop when the teacher said so.

Next week, I’ll move on to being a big 4th grader, then a top dog 5th grader. It’ll be my last week of elementary school, and then it’s on to become an angsty, pimple-faced middle schooler. I see much eye-rolling and crying in the bathroom in my future.

Classroom Crime & Punishment

Yesterday I remembered what it feels like to get in trouble at school.

I arrived during morning recess, and immediately a group of my 3rd grade classmates accosted me, pestering me to tell them more scary stories. I hesitated, asking them whether they’d had any nightmares.

“I couldn’t go to sleep at first,” one girl said, “but I remembered that you said the stories were make-believe, and then I fell asleep.”

The end-of-recess whistles blew, and the kids and I filed into class. Ms. Alessio, a teacher who was at the school back when I was a student, asked us to take our seats because she had an important announcement.

“I got a call from a parent last night,” she began.

My stomach sank. I’d suspected that indulging the kids’ demands for scary stories had been a bad idea, and that parents might complain. An anxious feeling began growing in my chest.


Not So Little Miss Popular

I never thought I’d get the chance to say it, but it’s true. I’m the most popular girl in my class. This is the first time I’ve ever had that experience, and you better believe that I’m loving it.

I wish that I could have known 20 years ago, when I was in 3rd grade, that one day I’d get a chance to be the girl that everyone paid attention to. At age 8, I was more teacher’s pet than social butterfly.  I was exceptionally tall for my age and had straight brown hair down to my waist. I wore headbands with little teeth that dug into my scalp, and I had to put on thick pink-framed glasses during class so I could see the blackboard. (We had actual blackboards, not white boards like the classrooms do now.) In one class photo — the kind with the futuristic “lasers” in the background — the huge puffed sleeves of my dress are uneven in height. (FYI, those are tack-marks on the photo, not pockmarks on my face.) In another photo, my bangs are slicked into what appears to be a cowlick combined with a comb-over, which is just about as attractive as it sounds.


Feelin’ Rough in 3rd Grade

Lately, I’m having more trouble than usual with balance. It’s after 5 a.m. right now, I haven’t gone to bed yet, and I’m supposed to be at school in three hours. There simply isn’t enough time for me to go to school, work part-time (as I’ve been attempting starting yesterday), document my experiences, AND take care of myself with enough sleep and exercise — much less to have a little downtime and fun.

The most frustrating thing is having almost a full notebook of ideas and no time to share them on the blog. I have posts from my first days in kindergarten — and posts from the education conference before school even started — that I have yet to generate. I might just have to save some for the book.

I’m in 3rd grade through Wednesday, and I’ll start 4th on Thursday. I’m averaging three days in each elementary grade and will spend a bit more time in each of my middle and high school classes.

I keep reminding myself that it’s important to sleep enough so I can get the most out of my classroom experience. When I’m tired, the kids’ constant stories about their pet dogs and their grandmas and their sparkle pencils just aren’t quite as entertaining.

This week, I also have an extra motivator: Looking decent for my 10-year high school reunion this weekend. Right now I look like something the cat hocked up. Let’s hope this changes before Friday.

Politics: A Whole New Can of Worms

Politics is part of my reschooling trifecta, along with personal finance and technology. These are areas where my lack of knowledge has limited me — in conversation, in attainment of my goals, and in self-confidence.

I’ve never identified myself as “political,” though I’ve chosen friends since college who took a particular interest in what was happening in the world. Through them, and by absorbing snippets from passing headlines and TV satire, I developed a passable knowledge of who was who (from Kim Jong Il to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and what they were up to. I went through phases where I’d listen to NPR or BBC news for weeks on end and then burn out, burying my head in the sand once again. I felt overwhelmed enough by my own issues and those of people close to me that I chose not to take on those of strangers.

This approach has kept me protected from feeling outraged every time I open a newspaper, but it has also limited me. I’ve felt ignorant more times than I can count when talking with people who assume I have a basic background in world affairs. When traveling abroad, I’ve met many foreigners who know more than I do about the history and politics of my own country. I’ve largely relied on the opinions of my informed friends — or publications I trust — when voting. Ultimately, my unwillingness to stay informed has disempowered me. If I want to make positive change in education, which has always been my passion, I need to be aware of who makes the rules and how they do it. Even more, as someone with the privilege of being an educated, middle-class American, I feel the responsibility to work for social justice and must start by becoming socially conscious.