One Memorable Moment From Each Year I Was In School

Jason's School Photos Through The Years

Went with Pace while he rode his new birthday bike over to a playground near our house.  Along the way, we passed the house of one of his kindergarten classmates who was playing in her front yard and then, at the playground, another classmate happened to be there playing as well.

As I sat on the bench watching Pace and his classmate, I got thinking about some of my own memorable moments from my school years.  I thought it might be interesting to record the first thing(s) that comes to mind when I think of each year of school I attended from kindergarten to grade twelve.

Other than the initial idea, I didn’t spend a lot of time planning what to write so these are going to be very spontaneous – literally, the first thing that comes to mind as I think back to each year.  This means they’re not necessarily the “best” memory or whatever – just a scattering of memorable moments that stand out for one reason or another (it’ll be interesting to see if there are any patterns.)

Although I’m calling these “memorable moments”, the reality is that they’re all subject to faulty memory and details may have changed in my mind, elements become more important or twisted around or whatever.  

Kindergarten (Ms. Halyk)
I remember hat we had to take a small rug to sleep on during a nap time each day which I thought was sort of strange.  (I suspect I wasn’t taking naps at home by this time)  We also had to tell the teacher every day if we’d done various hygiene tasks – comb our hair, brush our teeth, etc.  I couldn’t figure out how she did it but she always knew if a kid was lying about whether they’d brushed their teeth (as the father of a kindergarten myself, I now know it’s not like five year olds are poker-faced liars!)  Also weird – I broke my leg during the first week of kindergarten (maybe even the first day?) in a tragic teeter-totter incident yet that’s not even the first thing that comes to mind when I think about that year! 😉

Grade One (Ms Evans)
One defining memory of grade one has already been detailed elsewhere on this blog but basically I got in trouble for starting a super hero club.

Grade Two (Mrs. Hancock)
Occasionally Mrs. Hancock would buy her class treats as rewards – candy, donuts, ice cream sandwiches.  Near the end of the year, she decided to buy the class ice cream and for some reason, I had my heart set on donuts.  I somehow communicated that I wasn’t going to eat the ice cream, even if she bought it for me so rather than kicking my ass (as many teachers of that era would’ve done!) she ended up sending me and another boy (can’t remember if he also refused ice cream but somehow I doubt it – he just got roped in to accompany me) to the bakery to buy some donuts as well.  (Side note: As this story shows, Mrs. Hancock was the sweetest old lady you could probably ever want for a teacher.  Back before it was common, she used to buy bags of chips to hand out at Halloween and would regularly get hundreds of kids to her house in a town that probably only had a couple hundred kids in total.  That’s why it was so shocking to find out that she later committed suicide after retiring from teaching.)

Grade Three (Mrs. Learmonth)
The first thing to come to mind is that I have this weird memory that there was a big deal made out of the metric system coming in or being made official when I was in grade three.  But when I look at the Wikipedia entry for “Metrification in Canada”, I see no reference to anything significant happening in 1980.  I wonder if I’m mis-remembering some other major Canadian milestone from that year?  I see “O Canada” was officially made our national anthem in 1980 – are those two things similar enough that I could mix them up???  Or that something big happened regarding metric but in a different year?   Oh, and I don’t know how it came about but I ended up selling my entire hockey card collection to Mrs. Learmonth, a collection which probably included half a dozen Wayne Gretzky rookie cards (though kids in those days didn’t “collect” cards so they were probably all ripped, written on and bend from actually playing with them!)

Grade Four (Mrs. Prior)
This is a story I related on MetaFilter on a thread about experiences that shaped who we are today

We had a health class and in one lesson, the teacher was explaining that every single food we eat comes from plants.  “We eat corn – it’s a plant. We eat apples. They’re plants. We eat a hamburger or steak, it comes from cows that eat grass which is a plant. And so on.” I sat there thinking it over then put up my hand. “What about salt?” She stares hard at me then says “well, you couldn’t very well live on salt alone now could you?” which gets a big round of laughter from the class. But that wasn’t the point – I’d come up with something people eat that didn’t come from plants thus puncturing her whole lesson’s point.

And in that single moment, I realised a number of things…
1. teachers (and by extension, adults) don’t necessarily know everything. 

2. if they don’t, they may change the question and/or outright lie to you. 

3. looking back now, I’m not sure if this is where my skeptical side started or if it was something I always had. But it’s definitely one of my most valued attributes today. I’d go so far as to say that one of my maxims for life is still “Never Believe *Anything* 100%”

(I guess I also realised that even at ~8 years old, I could outsmart an adult. This is the first time I did that and it felt incredibly good and weird and amazing and scary.) 

[Edit: I realised I put this story in the wrong place.  I’m pretty sure this happened in Grade Three health class.]

Grade Five (Mr. Essery)
This one is pretty embarrassing to admit but given that I turned out to be a nerdy librarian, probably not that surprising.  I was already a big reader so one day I got it in my head that I would get *really* smart if I read the dictionary (that we had to buy as one of our school supplies anyhow) from cover-to-cover.  During reading time, I pulled out my Oxford Junior Dictionary (or whatever it was – I know the cover was blue) and started reading.  Fairly quickly, one of the popular girls noticed and said loudly, “What are you doing?  Reading the dictionary?”  I can’t remember what I replied – instead of crumbling immediately with some excuse, I think I said “yes” as if this was the most normal thing in the world.  But the next day in silent reading, I was back to reading the Hardy Boys or whatever I was in to back then.  (Part of the reason I wanted to familiarize myself with the dictionary was that I was pissed that another girl in class – also popular plus a brainiac – *always* beat me when the teacher had us look up words in the dictionary then put our hands up as soon as we found them.  She’s now a University prof teaching English Literature in Texas so I don’t feel quite so bad! 😉   (Side note #2: Mr. Essery was the second of my elementary school teachers to commit suicide.  I didn’t know it at the time of course but later realised that he was rumoured to be a closeted gay man.  I don’t know for sure but would expect that played a role in his decision to end his life.)

Grade Six (Mr. Quelch)
Me and one of my best friends regularly finished our work early so often got to go sit in the library to read or play educational games or whatever.  I can’t remember what it was called now but there was one game which I think was sort of like Monopoly but based on countries of the world and you got resources based on each country’s real world GDP and stuff.  We played that game for hours and *loved* it.

Grade Seven (Mr. Hindle)
In my town, elementary school went from kindergarten to grade six.  Then you moved to the high school which basically had “middle school grades” (eg. 7,8,9) in one wing and “high school grades (eg. 10, 11, 12) in another wing, divided by a gym in the middle and with very little cross-over between them.  Mr. Hindle had a terrible reputation as a hardass, swinging rulers at kids, throwing chalk, taking absolutely no shit about anything.  I was always pretty solid academically but I also didn’t like getting in trouble if I could help it.  Luckily, I made it through the year without ever really getting his full wrath (not sure if the fact that his family lived across the street from us and that I regularly played with his two boys – both younger than me – helped with that.  I doubt it.)  Anyhow, although I never got in trouble, I remember once when he gave back a math test.  It was a bit more advanced than elementary school 2+2=4 stuff but I knew I’d aced it.  So I was surprised to see 99%.  I re-checked my answers, realised I had it 100% correct so went up (probably quite tentatively) to ask why I only got a 99%  “Mr. Hammond,” he said.  “Nobody’s perfect!” and that was that.

Grade Eight (Mr. Huggins)
This may have been grade seven but my memory is that it was around grade eight when one of my best friends got *heavily* into Dungeons & Dragons.  I was pretty sure it wasn’t satanic like they alluded to in school assemblies but I saw a cult-like fervour in my friend’s devotion to his new hobby so didn’t let myself totally immerse myself like he and some of my other friends did.  I did end up joining his newly formed D&D group for a little while (and have gamed a bit over the years but never to the extent of that group of my friends – most of whom I think still game on a weekly basis to this day!)  But my one strong memory is that one guy in the group who wasn’t as nerdy as the rest of us (more of a jock with a bit of a reputation as a crazy daredevil) came to play and somehow him and I ended up getting in a fist fight.  I caught him with a lucky blow and he ended up splurting blood all over my friend’s bedroom and probably some of his valuable D&D manuals as well.  Probably one of the few times that role playing got that realistic!

Grade Nine (is it sad that I can remember my Grade One home teacher’s name clearly but have no idea whose homeroom I was in for grade nine?  I think that’s probably because grade nine was when we started having different teachers for pretty much every subject and moving between class rooms depending on what you were taking so you didn’t build a strong connection with your home room)
We had an art teacher who would play music during most of her classes after giving us our assignment – sculpt something with clay, draw an animal, build a spherical structure with straws or whatever.  She didn’t like rock music no matter how much we tried to convince her to play “our” music so would usually play boring classical music.  But she had one exception to the “no rock music” rule – for some reason, she loved Creedence Clearwater Revival so we’d often sit in class, especially if it fell on a Friday afternoon, with the CCR cranked! 😉

Grade Ten 
Because I’d quit band, I joined choir, mainly so I could still go on band trips because of my deep love and appreciation for music.  During the band tour, a random encounter with some sketchy characters on a side street in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan earned me the nickname “Pitbull” which I think only the three people I was with at the time know and only one continues to use in reference to me to this day.

Grade Eleven
I always like playing sports although I was never a super-jock.  So when a couple of my friends tried out for the high school football team in grade nine, I took a pass as being a tackling dummy for a bunch of older kids during 7am practices didn’t seem like my idea of fun.  And in grade ten, I resisted the approaches of my friends once again.  But by grade eleven, the team was desperate for players and there was only going to be one grade of kids ahead of me to punish me as a rookie (I was dumb enough to not realise that my friends, with two years’ under their belts, would also be part of the “veteran” group so they’d partake in some of the rookie abuse too – no brutal hazing but just silly stuff like making sure rookies cleaned up all the equipment after practice or whatever.)  Anyhow, playing on the football team was a great experience and led to all kinds of memorable moments.  Perhaps one of the funniest is hearing the coach yell “Monkey rolls!” and then we’d do this…

…until one of the three in the exercise landed on top of one or both of the other two.  (You’d hope it was a smaller guy who ended up getting winded first but it was usually one of the bigger guys of course who’d land with all their weight on you.)

Grade Twelve
This is another story I’ve related elsewhere on my blog but the TL;DR (“Too Long; Didn’t Read”) version is that a bunch of us skipped school to go on a road trip to Regina to “buy prizes” for a school dance one day.  When we got back, we realised the school *did* notice when six guys from their grade twelve class all didn’t show up on the same day.  It looked like we were going to get in huge trouble but by approaching the vice-principal in the evening when we got back and having a *very* frank discussion about what had happened, we ended up pre-empting any discipline.

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