School memories

I have always loved school. It did not matter whether I was the student or if I was in the classroom as the teacher. I loved to learn new things.

I remember my first day of kindergarten. My mother took me to school. I told her she did not need to come get me because I would walk home with my neighbor. I guess that was the beginning of my independent streak. I remember the little bathrooms that were in our classroom. They had short doors and the boys tried to look under them.

In first grade I got hit by a car on my way to school. We heard the talk about strangers so I got up and ran to my aunt and uncle’s house. She let me in and called my mother. Mom called the school. She was told the man who hit me wanted her to take me to the doctor to be sure I was okay. After that I returned to school. I also remember sitting beside a boy who pinched my arm. That year I wore a lot of long sleeved clothes because then he left me alone.

My teacher got sick in second grade. I had a teacher who had also been my mother’s teacher. We had substitute after substitute. Before the year ended she died. I also remember that a good friend got tuberculosis. My mother had to take me to the sanitarium in Lily Dale to be tested. That was scary. That was also the year that our minister moved away. He had a son who I especially liked so that was a sad day.

I loved my third grade teacher. She was young and pretty. That year we painted and did several plays. I remember that I wanted to be Snow White, but that was not to be. My best friend got the part. I did have a knack for spilling paint. One day I had to wear the teacher’s smock home because I got so much paint on my dress.

Fourth grade was sort of iffy. I challenged the teacher when she marked something wrong on my English paper. I had used the word, too, correctly but she marked it wrong. She never did acknowledge her mistake and she never changed my grade either. I do remember making a relief map of Africa that year. That was fun.

My fifth grade teacher was very artsy. We did a lot of art projects that year. I remember making a pair of robins as part of a science class. They had to be done correctly. With her help I was able to get them done. We also made some animals with scraps of cloth. I had those hanging in my room at home for a while. I also remember the beautiful writing she did in my autograph book. She was a skillful printer.

Sixth grade was different. We had an older Italian student who was there to learn English. He was a pest. We also had a Puerto Rican student. We had to help him with his work until he learned enough English to manage on his own. Since our teacher spoke Spanish he managed quite nicely.

By seventh grade we went to the big school. Our classes were in the oldest part of the school. Even though we changed classes we had to walk quietly in single file through the hall. When we went to home economics we had to go through a tunnel in the basement to get to the newer part of the school.

In eighth grade we were still in the old school. I remember our gym class. I was always in the last squad because I was short. I was also one of the last ones picked when we had to pick teams. It was embarrassing. There was a track along the top of the gym that we were allowed to use. The teacher told us to run laps there. That was fun.

The high school years kind of run all together. We just kept moving up. I remember some of my teachers, but not all of them. I especially liked social studies. I made my decision early that I was going to teach social studies. Well, two years into my program I switched to elementary education. I did not get along with the social studies professors in college. The only one I got along with was the head of the department. I had a hard time explaining my switch of major to him because I did well in his class.

When I look back on my experiences I realized how much I liked the things that the teachers did to get us to learn. When I had my own classroom I tried to be the type of teacher that I had admired. I found ways to teach that enhanced the curriculum that were fun. I was always mindful that students learn by different methods. Some children learn by hands-on methods. I made sure that I did some things that way.

Students that I have seen remember all of the fun things that we did. Every year I made sure that I cooked something. The children loved doing that. One year we made soup. Another year we made sloppy joes for our picnic. Another year we cooked hot dogs and cut up vegetables. One year we celebrated Sandwich Day. Everything always tasted better to the students when they had a hand in it. They learned to measure as well as cook.

I hope that the teachers who are in the classrooms today read this and think about how to make education come alive for their students. Learning has to be more than rote learning or even learning why we do things. It has to involve the whole student. While it took some planning to fit it into the curriculum it was well worth my effort.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at