Friday, September 10, 2004

Why I can't stand 4th grade teachers

My brother's eldest child A is entering 4th grade this year. I hold a horrible grudge against the 4th grade, and have had two really bad experiences with 4th grade teachers. I appologize now to any 4th grade teachers that aren't the anti-christ.

When I was in 4th grade we had to make an Indiana History Scrapbook. Basically we had to cut out a bunch of crap and paste it into this great big book and do a bunch of essays.

The first page of the book had "Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The last time I checked this didn't happen in Indiana, but I digress. Our teacher said, "If any of you can memorize this poem, you do not have to do the scrapbook." It was a long honkin' poem-3 pages.

Being the realist that I am, I asked what we would do instead. Even at the tender age of 9 I knew adults were full of loop holes. She said we could read or spend more time in art. We did have a kick ass art department in my Elementary school, and we were currently weaving baskets and working on stained glass designs. She kind of gave me one of those annoying ass "aww how cute you want to do this but you'll never be able to" kind of smiles. That was a big mistake. I can still see that damn smile on her face.

I weighed my options. Considering we were spending the last hour and a half of the day working on these scrapbooks, it seemed like a fair trade-off. Besides, I really dug the basket weaving, and I wanted to make my Mom something for her birthday that was coming up.

I don't think my teacher counted on having a kid in her class with a photographic memory. They wanted to skip me a bunch of grades when I was younger, but my parents wouldn't allow it, thinking that social development was more important then graduating high school at 13 or 14. Thank God for my parents.

Anyway, I spent the whole weekend doing nothing but memorizing that damn poem. I went into school on Monday and stood in front of her desk. She looked up with that same self defeating smile and said, "Yes?" to which I replied:

Paul Revere's Ride

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
>From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

She just kind of sat there dumbfounded. I'm sure I had a real sarcastic grin spread wide over my face. All she could manage to say was, "Take your seat."

The day took an eternity. I watched the clock like a hawk waiting for the very minute I could prance out of that class and begin working on my new basket.

It finally came, and she said for everyone to take out their scrapbook materials. I just sat there. Finally I raised my hand and asked if I could go to the art room now. She told me no, to take out my scrapbook supplies.

What the fuck??? I'm sure that wasn't the exact words I was thinking, but I am sure it was something along those lines. I refused to do it. Her voice got louder and louder while I sat there shaking my head at her. It was dead quiet for about 2 minutes. No one even seemed to breath in the room as we stared each other down.

Finally she said, "Go to the principal's office." Again, What the fuck?? So I go to the principal's office and proceed to tell my side of the story. I was chastised for not listening to an adult. Then my parents were called.

My parent's getting calls from the principal's office wasn't all that out of the ordinary for them. Between my brother and I, we always managed to get ourselves into trouble. I didn't fear certain death or an all girls school this time. My Mom came to the school about a half hour later. I heard her voice raised. I heard the principal's voice raised. I heard things like, "Well we never thought a 4th grader could actually do it."

She came out of the principal's office and said, "Let's go" in one of those stern Mother type voices. She didn't say a word all the way to the car. To make a long story short, they refused to budge, and I'd have to do the damn scrapbook.

I just didn't understand. The teacher said I wouldn't have to do it. I had witnesses even I told my Mom. It just wasn't fair. She told me to take three valuable lessons from this experience, and I can still hear her saying them in my head today, 25 years later.

These were her words of wisdom, "Life is not always fair, people don't always do what they say they are going to do, and some battles just aren't worth fighting."

(Gnomes are worth fighting for)

I understand now what she meant, but at the time it didn't make much sense. I proceeded to make the crappiest scrapbook in history. My parents till have it to this day.

My second bad experience was with my eldest neice's 4th grade teacher. I was working night shift so that I could be there when my sister's kid went to school. Her new job required that she start at 6 in the morning, and finding a babysitter at that time is next to impossible.

I had worked 14 hours that night, and my little neice came peaking over my bed. "Aunt Kelly, I need help. I didn't finish my math homework and Mrs ___ (I should put the bitches real name in is mean."

She asked me what 43 divided by 6 was. In my half asleep state I said 7. She asked me a couple more. I remember after I got them off to school I thought, damn I hope they aren't doing remainders yet. I was sure they didn't do that in 4th grade, and my mind was playing tricks on me.

Weeeeell, they were doing remainders, and all the answers I gave her were wrong. This coming from the chick that memorized that damn poem. It is amazing what can happen before you have caffeine in the morning. This evil teacher proceeded to call my neice stupid in front of the whole class. She's a sensitive kid, and she cried all night until I got home from work at 2:00 am.

My sister was also awake, because she was scared of what I might do the next morning. People can do anything they want to me, but if you mess with my family there is hell to pay. She begged me not to go to the school, that she would take care of it.

The thought of going to jail after I kicked this old ladies ass probably stopped me from going, and I am not a violent person. I don't know if I could have controlled myself. At the very least I would have caused a scene that would have embarrassed my neice.

My sister had a nice parent-principal conference over that one, and I believe the bitch was disciplined over it. A couple of months later the kids had an open house for the art they had done. I went to it, and the minute I got that teacher out of earshot I told her, "Don't you ever call me stupid again." She looked kind of puzzled, in a you are a psycho and I'm afraid now kind of way.

If I ever have kids, they are going to be home schooled during 4th grade.


Annie said...

I have a 4th grader this year and she already needs help with her homework. Geometry! I told her I wasn't prepared to deal with this for about six more years.

It seems awfully early to be learning about that!

Anonymous said...

I too had a very bad fourth grade teacher. I mean, she was my worst teacher. And my parents skipped me a grade. That set me back a few years actually, when I come to think of it. I graduated high school before they let me drive even. My mom told me I had to "grow up" before she let me drive. They never let me have any privileges to go along with the responsibilities. Oh, wait you're not my therapist.

Are you the same kj4ever from Project Greenlight? Or as I used to say, PGL?

kj4ever said...

There were two of us kj's at PGL. I didn't come around until the end of #2, around when the message boards went down. I went by kellyjean at the offical PGL site, and kj4ever on all the other PGL related message boards.

Anonymous said...

So you were the one in chat all the time. oh my gosh. I finally found some PGL people. that is insane.

kj4ever said...

That Catz link I have on this page is a PGL type message board. Who were you at pgl?