As we all know, a familiar lesson or activity can trigger a memory. Often I think back to my younger days (Yes, MUCH younger days!), being in kindergarten and first grade. I was one of those kids who absolutely LOVED school and loved my teachers. The joys of looking back to kindergarten include wonderful memories of learning how to write my name with perfection and how to spell all of the color words, as well as the not so nice smell of our class pet, Mr. Rabbit (I forget his name. I’m old!). I’ll never forget my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Joyce Gillespie. I thought she was the most beautiful and kindest person on this earth. She spoke softly. She smelled like honeysuckle and always had a broach perched on the dresses she wore. I can close my eyes to this day and see her perfect penmenship on the chalkboard. I remember the games we played and the snacks she gave us such as peanut butter on celery. I thought it tasted yucky, but grew to like it. Other kids gave me their grape juice to drink because they didn’t like it. My mama kept a lot of my papers from kindergarten. The “A+” marks that Mrs. Gillespie gave me meant the world to me. I wanted to do my best. I wanted her to be proud of me. I remember crying in the bathroom after my kindergarten graduation because I didn’t want to leave her.
First grade was amazing! The distinct smell of fresh ditto papers, oil on the hardwood floors and chalk dust instantly takes me back to Mrs. Edna Roark’s classroom. I always got to school much earlier than the rest of the class. I had the privilege of helping Mrs. Roark hand out the morning worksheets. They were usually damp because they were fresh from the ditto machine. (You would have to be at LEAST 40 to know what I’m talking about.) I proudly walked by each tiny desk and gently placed the math or reading worksheets for the day. I felt so special.
Learning how to read in first grade opened up a whole new world for me. I remember our reading groups, much like my little reading group of first graders now, and how I loved to go up to the front of the room and read. We took turns and had to always know exactly where the other person was and be able to take off in the exact spot when it was our turn.
A not so pleasant memory? Mrs. Roark gave me my very first paddling in school. Each room of the 3-room schoolhouse that I attended had doors to the outside. On one occasion when Mrs. Roark left the classroom, several of my classmates and I decided that it would be a good idea to sneak outside and catch some worms by the swings. To make a long story short…Mrs. Roark caught us, lined us up, and gave us all a paddling with “Old Betsy”, the famous school paddle. I wasn’t bothered by the paddling (Thank GOD I had on my big woolly winter coat!) but what hurt me the most was that I thought Mrs. Roark was mad at me and, Heaven forbid, disappointed in me that I had broken the rules. I loved every second of first grade. I love Mrs. Roark. She is one of the most special people that I hold in my memory.
Memories that we all have of our early years of school are near and dear to our hearts. Teaching first grade has really made me realize that my actions, my choice of words, and my attitude toward learning and teaching are VERY important. I sincerely hope that my first grade students remember me with fond thoughts and sweet memories.