With my oldest daughter now in third grade, I've been sharing with her some memories of my own third grade experience back in the day. How can I politely describe my third grade teacher? Quirky. Eccentric. And, uhh, interesting.
Here are a few of my fleeting memories from the third grade.
First, to give you a visual perspective, here's a picture of my third grade class from October 1979.
I'm in the front row, second from the left. Why was I the only boy in the front row? No fair! I'm not sure what my costume was supposed to be, but you can see the mask on the floor in front of me. The teacher (she's in the upper right corner) made us take two pictures - one with our masks on and one without masks. The girl next to me couldn't take off her mask because it was attached to the rest of the costume And yes, the kid in the back row really is dressed as confederate leader Robert E. Lee. I suppose that wasn't considered offensive back in '79?
Every class did a play on the stage in the school's auditorium. My third grade play was called Fantastic February. I don't think this was one of those canned school play scripts that teachers typically use. I think our teacher wrote it herself. Strangely enough, I still remember the lyrics to the song we sang at the beginning of the play:
Fantastic February, it's frolicsome and fun.
There's lots to tell about it, you'll hear from everyone.
We'll start at the beginning, and carry right on through.
And if you listen carefully, we'll enlighten you.
Here's the basic premise of the play: There was a large easel at the front of the stage with a piece of poster board for each day of the week. So when the number one came up, students would perform a quick skit or explanation of something historical or otherwise noteworthy that happened on February 1. Then someone who was in that skit would take that day's poster board off the easel and put it on the ground, and then there would be a skit for February 2, and so on.
The only skit I can remember was one where another student and I carried a surfboard and explained a world record wave that hit on a particular day in February.
But my big memory of that play is how a friend and I sort of screwed up everything. After the final dress rehearsal the day before the play, the teacher asked me and a classmate to pick up the poster boards and put them back into place on the easel. In our third grade minds, we didn't think about making sure the posters were still in the proper order or facing the right way.
So in the middle of the play, the teacher had to do some scrambling because the days were out of order. Oops.
The teacher had a pet tarantula which lived in the classroom. No, it didn't roam free. It lived in a little cage, and the teacher would feed it, water it and pull it out from time to time. She'd hold it in her hand and sometimes let the students pet it.
I wish I could remember the tarantula's name, but I'm stumped. I even asked another former third grader with whom I'm connected on Facebook. But she had no idea.
The students' interest in touching the tarantula pretty much fell along gender lines. Most of the boys were happy to touch the giant, hairy spider; most of the girls declined.
I can't imagine that in modern times a third grade teacher would be allowed to have a pet tarantula in the classroom.
One day the teacher decided to make a list on the chalkboard of everyone's favorite television shows. Maybe it was some sort of survey lesson. Anyway, she went around the room and asked each of us for our favorite show. I don't recall what the other kids said, but their answers were children's shows that you would've expected third graders to watch.
When the teacher asked me, I threw her a curveball for an answer:
Teacher: Adam, what's your favorite television show?
Adam: Meet the Press.
I definitely surprised her. How many eight-year-olds watch Meet the Press? But she wrote it down on the board and went on with the rest of the exercise. I did actually like to watch the news when I was a kid. But I'm not sure whether I was trying to be realistic with my answer or if I was just being a wise guy. Probably both.
One day my school uniform T-shirt had a small rip near the collar. Several of my classmates noticed it and were asking me about it. I told them that since my shirt was torn, I was going to rip it off and throw it away as soon as I got home. I even demonstrated how I was going to do it by grabbing the top of the shirt with both hands and pretending to pull where it was ripped.
Unfortunately, my demonstration was too real. I accidentally ripped my shirt all the way down to my navel. I don't remember whether the teacher found me another shirt to wear for the rest of day or perhaps she safety-pinned it back together. But she sent me home with a note for my parents that went something like this:
Adam had a small rip in the top of the shirt. While demonstrating to another student what he was going to do with the shirt when he got home, he made it much worse.
One day in the middle of class, the guy sitting next to me suddenly threw up right on his desk. The teacher didn't even notice! She just kept on teaching. I raised my hand, and so did the student sitting on the other side of the vomiter. She still didn't call on us right away. Finally when she did, we both shouted, "[Name] just thew up!" Back in those days, vomit in a classroom was nothing like the big biohazard that it is today. So the teacher sent the kid to the nurse's office and called the janitor in to wipe off the desk.
In class we read the children's book Stone Soup. As a fun project, the teacher designated a day when we were really going to make stone soup in the classroom. Everyone was assigned to bring something real to go into the soup. Then the teacher provided a stone which dropped into the pot. Then we all got to eat a bowl of stone stoup. I hope she washed the stone first.
Second Grade Bonus
Here's a bonus story from when I was in second grade. In the back of the classroom there were large windows and a door which opened up to a walkway and fence behind the school. The teacher attached a small wooden house to the fence and said it was for our pet squirrel. Every day the teacher would go out there and put a couple of peanuts on top of the little house. And sure enough, a squirrel would run up and grab the nuts.
In reality, it was probably a different squirrel every time. But we all thought it was the same squirrel that always visited our class. The teacher decided to let the students pick a name. We discussed it and took a vote. All the boys voted to name the squirrel Peanuts. All the girls voted to name it Peanut Tina. Since it was a tie, we gave the squirrel both names.
I hope my daughter's third grade year is free from confederate flags, on-stage errors, giant spiders, news programs, shirtless boys, vomit and dirty soup. But it's okay if her class has a squirrel.