Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mommy's Piggy Tales: 5th Grade

I missed recording 5th grade last week because we were in Dallas. Catchin' back up now...

I felt a little sentimental about turning 10 (which is the age of my oldest son now!). My Mom sat on my bed in my dark room the night before my birthday and said, “How do you feel? It’s your last night before double digits. You’ll never have 1 number in your age again!” Reminds me of how I felt just turning 35…

5th grade was a time of big changes for me. I started playing the flute in the band (which I absolutely loved during that year and for the next 7 years). By now I had gotten my ears pierced. I hit puberty. I got my first perm. And I went shopping for my first bra.

I did not always like the fact that I was the oldest girl in my family, and all of this had to happen to ME first. Mom took me to buy a training bra at Sears on the mall. I remember my little sisters giggling and teasing me, trying to peek in the dressing room. My Mom would say, "Leave your sister alone." And I was just really embarrassed that I knew my Dad knew I was going to buy a bra. I think for the first week or two I wore a sweatshirt everyday to school so that no one could see I was wearing a bra. The boys at school would always come up behind girls and grab their shirts to flip their bra straps. I'm sure that could be some sort of lawsuit today.

This was taken on one of our field trips (My Mom went on this one as a chaperone.). We took trips that year to Table Rock Dam & Fish Hatchery, the museum at School of the Ozarks, and Wilson Creek Battlefield. I became very interested in the Civil War this year. That's me, second row from the top, wearing a blue jacket. That's my friend Sarah sitting next to me.

This was the first year I really had an opinion about who I wanted my teacher to be. It was quite a relief that I got the one I wanted - Mrs. Stephens. She was nice and funny, and I liked her the whole year. (We recently became friends on facebook! She's seriously a GEM.) This is what I had written in my 6th grade diary: Mrs. Stephens understood I was shy and didn't like to read my writing. She didn't make me, either.

I did not want the other 5th grade teacher. I thought she was mean. (Disclaimer: I'm sure Mrs. L is a good and lovely person altogether - these are just my memories of how I saw it back then...and ironically, she was a potential mother-in-law for me years later.)

Mrs. Stephens

I did have to go to Mrs. L's class for reading group. (My diary says: It was the pits!) One day we had to write some kind of story. I absolutely loved to write, and I was still a really great student. I think I've made it pretty clear how terribly shy I was; it was so hard for me to read something like this out loud. I didn't mind reading from a book aloud. But if it was something I wrote myself, I felt vulnerable and self-conscious...and sometimes I just couldn't do it. I think I was supposed to stand up and read my paper. I froze. (My friend Chris J. and I would always look at each other sympathetically because it was hard for him, too.) This still happens to me today on some level, to a lesser degree. This is the quality I like least about myself. I use to fret in elementary school about what I was going to do about giving a valedictory speech at graduation. Seriously. I was the best student in my class, and I wondered if I would have to give up the honor if I couldn't give a speech! (For the record, I did not end up being valedictorian.)

Anyway, I clammed up, and she was practically ordering me to read it. I murmured that I didn't want to. She told me I was going to get a zero on the assignment if I didn't read it. Okay! I was fine with that. (I was not only shy, I was stubborn.) She very coldly told me to go to the hall. She was treating this as if I was disobeying her, but I really and truly couldn't help it.

This happened to be the year my Mom volunteered at the school. And she happened to be walking by so Mrs. L stopped her and told her I was refusing to read my paper. My Mom asked me why I wouldn't read it. I said I was too embarrassed, and I couldn't do it. She told me she really thought I should read it. She could tell, though, that I wasn't going to read it and that this whole situation was devastating me. She told Mrs. L that I didn't have to read it. This is one way I love my Momma (who was only 29 at the time!). She might disagree with me to my face regularly, but when it comes to other people being involved, she is always on her children's side and will staunchly defend them.

In an almost identical story, I did not feel warm and fuzzy about my elementary music teacher, either. I love to sing, but I also had a hard time singing in front of people. (Fortunately, I overcame this a lot by highschool.) Every quarter, we had to go behind the piano with a partner and Mrs. A to sing "Frere Jacques." She would sing, "Are you sleeping?" etc. The students would sing each line back. (Looking back, how on earth was this relevant to our grade? We just sang songs for fun in elementary music class.) I didn't always have a hard time doing this. It was just this particular time, I felt overwhelmed, like my throat was closing up. When this happens to me, it's like my brain freezes, and there's no amount of money that could convince the words to come out of my mouth.

Mrs. A was not happy with me. She called my parents and told them I wouldn't sing. They had a talk with me about it, and I told them I would try to do it next time at music class. So this is what she did - takes me out to the hallway, which happens to be the Junior High hall. The bell rings, and my brother and his friends were out there going to their lockers, passing by, and smiling at me. And Mrs. A is singing, "Are you sleeping?" and expecting awkwardly-shy me, in the throes of puberty, to sing it back to her, right in front of junior high boys. (I'm getting worked up just thinking about this absurdity!) Of course, I didn't, and that's why I have "Refused to sing" forever imprinted on my 5th grade report card.

My big exciting moment in the 5th grade was getting to be on the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour. There was this amazing, energetic, small lady, Dorothy Leake, who was in her early 90's. She was an author, researcher, educator, conservationalist, and environmentalist (before it was a popular choice) who happened to live in our small town. She devoted her life to protecting the wildlife and streams in the area. We took trips to see her and learn from her on more than one occasion.

One day our teacher told us something like this: the first people who finished their work had the chance to sign up for something. She wouldn't tell us if it was something fun or a chore; we had to make the decision based on whether we wanted to help or not, without knowing what it was. I finished my assignments first, as usual, and signed up right away. Since I loved school (except for reading and singing out loud!), I was always ready for an extra project or responsibility. The kids who signed up were thrilled that we got to spend the day with Dr. Leake and be on television. From what I remember, they only showed little flashes of us helping her, but it was a really fun experience altogether.


Annette W. said...

Yep...puberty in fifth grade...what would be sexual harassment now...shy...but maybe not as bad as you...very cool that you got to be a helper ...and be on tv!

Cary said...

Sweet Jenny...I did not hit puberty until YEARS and YEARS after that. I wish I could go back and be Dorothy Leake's little apprentice. That would have been amazing! It's one of those things I wish I could go back and know then what I know now.
Love the group field trip shot. Dig on Jason's shades! And how did Chris Hayes get to go? I should have been there.

Glenda said...

Loved your talented writing!