February 16th, 2006

Fourth Grade

Years: 1981-82
Teacher: Miss Linder

Ah, Miss Linder. My first teacher crush. She was pretty, she was nice, and she smiled a lot. Oh, and she wasn’t much taller than us fourth graders. What’s not to like? *sigh*

The great thing about early elementary school years is that part of your day is taken up by teachers reading to you. Every afternoon, right after recess, Miss Linder would read us a chapter from a book. I’m sure it was partly to settle us down and partly to get us interested in books, but it had the extra benefit of eating up school time, so I was all for it. If your teacher had a pleasant voice (and Miss Linder did), well, that was just icing on the cupcake.

A chapter a day means she must have read several books to us throughout the year, but the only one I remember is Where the Red Fern Grows. I don’t necessarily remember the plot, but I remember it’s one of those sad books where everybody’s dog dies for some heroic reason and it’s meant to teach kids about … I’m not sure. Heroism? Pet death? Botany? One of those. I seem to recall we were all pretty bummed about the book at the end.

Somewhere along the way I lost my ability to listen to people read. No matter how hard I try, I can’t grasp what they are saying and my focus wanders. Any time someone says, “Hey, listen to this!” I have to try to explain that it would be better if they just let me read it. It’s caused some hard feelings along the way and I feel bad about that. It’s never been about the person reading, it’s just been that anyone was reading. The written word has more power to me than the spoken word. I think it’s because I can read back over it if I need to figure something out. If I miss something someone said, that’s pretty much too bad. There’ve been movies on DVD that I’ve put the closed captioning on for this exact reason, and it’s also why I’d choose being deaf over being blind – I mean, if I had to choose.

For reasons I can’t fully explain, I look back on fourth grade as the last idyllic time in my life. Whenever I’m asked “What point in your life would you go back to if you could?” I invariably choose this grade. It wasn’t really a transitional year – fifth grade would handle those duties. It was the last year of the lower half of elementary school, so we were on the highest rung of that ladder, and that’s always nice. That whole process of starting over at the bottom at each new stage of life can be daunting: fifth grade, ninth grade, freshman in college, and each new job – trying to learn your place and get acclimated can be too overwhelming. I don’t even like to go into new businesses where I don’t know where to pay for things or how to ask for product. I absolutely hate auctions for that same reason. The unfamiliar is unwelcome in my staked-off little area of the world.

This was the year that Josh W. skipped third grade and joined our class, but I had to be reminded of that fact by him. My memories of him start in fifth grade and we didn’t actually become friends until high school. We’re still friends today, so I feel a little bad about not remembering his first year in my class, but my memories of him from fifth grade aren’t so favorable, so maybe its better to not have memories than to have not-good ones.

These haven’t really been “memories of” so much as they’ve been “musings on” fourth grade, and that’s because I don’t have a lot of specific memories from that year, just general “feely” ones. This was the year I got glasses and also the year I started piano lessons, but those aren’t really “school” memories, so I’m not going to mention them. I’m also not going to mention my sticker collection, especially not the pages full of scratch-and-sniff ones. I will particularly NOT mention that the skunk one was one of my favorites.

I will mention, however, that fourth grade was the year I wrote my first short story. It must have been for a class assignment because I don’t know why else I would have written it. It was a mouse’s point of view of the Nativity scene, and all I remember is that at one point, Joseph lifted the mouse so it could have a better view of the manger. I can’t even imagine writing something like that now – I mean, picking up a mouse and holding it around a newborn baby?!? Germs, man! Think! Apparently, I’ve grown into these phobias.

I think back on fourth grade as being “happy.” It wasn’t that other grades were so unhappy, it’s just that this grade seems, in my memory, happier.

Fifth grade was where the business went down, man.

2 Comments on “Fourth Grade”

  1. the obscure. says:

    I hesitate to say this, but I think it was actually Mr. Johnson who read you "Where the Red Fern Grows".

    I had completely forgotten about scratch-and-sniff. You are a lifesaver!

  2. Meags says:

    I didn't like most of my elementary school years. I think things started to suck in third grade – it was the first time I was referred to as "ugly" by a boy. Fourth grade everything just sucked – my best friend decided she didn't like me anymore. Things didn't really get better until 10th grade.

    I think I might do a series like this, but it will bring up so many bad memories.

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