Monday, December 10, 2012
Do You Remember Fourth Grade?
When I was in fourth grade I had never heard of the word "blog." Had you? Or "skype," "YouTube," or "Prezi," either, for that matter. As a matter of fact, a computer was kind of like science fiction, with the clunky Commodores being amazingly more technologically advanced than our fancy self-correcting electric typewriters. But those didn't come out until after high school.
When I was in fourth grade I remember my classroom being in the "lower level" (AKA basement) of our school. Our windows were above our heads and we could watch the grass growing along the edge of the panes of glass when we peered out. In a heavy snow, those windows were covered by it, blocking our view of the back playground. My teacher, Mrs. Winfrey, was the only non-white person in the building and yet it fortunately didn't seem strange. She was just like the rest of our teachers: well-respected and a loving authority figure from whom we would learn what we needed to know. We had paper, pencils, rulers, all-metal scissors, wooden-topped desks with grooves for our pencils, and pink erasers with a smell I loved. We had a blackboard. Not green, certainly not white. A true black blackboard. If you were one of the lucky student-helpers, you got to take the blackboard erasers to the big vacuum once a week by the east entrance to suck out the week's chalk dust. It was an honor to be chosen for that very important task and I remember being envious of students who were chosen. I was never one of them. The other important task in the classroom was washing the blackboard. Only the teachers did this, and it made the board shine a beautiful, almost patent leather shine.
I don't remember anything in particular about fourth grade, except that our classroom was calm. I remember the sunshine and the calendar in kindergarten, the tiered classroom layout in first, second grade's reading circle, practicing cursive and multiplication in third, consoling my distraught long-term substitute teacher and leading the national anthem in fifth, and having my first boyfriend and a not-very-effective teacher in sixth whose lack of control led to some antics from the boys that made some of us girls cringe. Oh, and that was the year I first wore a pair of pants to school: brown paisley corduroy with a back zipper and bell bottoms Did we learn about decimals in fourth grade? I KNOW we didn't blog or make presentations. I do remember walking across the street during my lunch once a week for my piano and voice lessons, but other than that....nope, not much.
Many of my fourth graders were my first graders three years ago. I can truly say I love them. Often, I'll ask about something from first grade and they'll chime in that they remember it well, and then typically go on to prove it by adding more facts. Sometimes it's something academic, sometimes it's about classroom procedures, and sometimes it's an event we shared. It brings me profound joy that they remember those times.
Knowing they remember those things also brings me great hope that they will remember fourth grade as a time they learned to love reading. I hope they remember the friends they made through books. I hope they will remember this year as the year they began their first (but not last!) blog to share their learning and their ideas. I hope they will remember this year is when they learned to "choose kind" over winning an argument. Maybe they'll also remember this is the year they learned a particular thing in math or social studies or reading or writing, but more than that, I hope this year they will remember feeling important and capable and eager to learn. And loved and cared for by their teacher.
That is what I hope they will always remember from fourth grade.
Posted by Suzanne Gibbs at 6:30 PM