August 26, 2006

School Memories Meme

I am feeling all nostalgic about my elementary school because it's the same school my own kids went to, and now for the first time in fifteen years, I have no children there. With-a-Why begins the big public junior high this year. So I started doing the RevGalBlogPal meme, but it quickly turned into a longer meme. I am very bad at following rules.

Smells that remind me of elementary school: Chalk dust. Paste. Magic markers. Wet rubber boots.

Things that remind me of elementary school: Nuns. Hawaiian shirts. Any kind of decoration made out of construction paper. Green knee socks. Ice cream sandwiches and those pre-wrapped ice cream cones with the chocolate and nuts on top.

How much milk cost when I began school: Three pennies. And ice cream was a dime.

Scariest thing about school: I dreaded oral reports. I was very shy, and the thought of standing in front of the room talking absolutely terrified me. It's funny because as an adult, I am not the least bit shy about talking in front of people.

Thing I didn't like about school: Waiting for the school bus on really cold winter days. And I was afraid of some of the big kids on the bus. Those eighth graders seemed so tall and loud.

Favorite school clothes: I wore the same outfit to school for nine years since we had school uniforms. It was a tradition to complain about the school uniform and say how much we hated it, but I actually didn't mind it at all. It was easy to just grab the same skirt and a clean blouse each morning, and not worry about clothes. The outfit was comfortable, and like most of the other girls, I wore shorts under the skirt so that I could still do cartwheels and stuff like that.

Party tricks I learned in elementary school: I can sing Silent Night in Hawaiian. I can dance an Irish jig. I used to know the capital of every state but that was before I killed all those brain cells in college.

Strangest thing: Whenever a kid vomited on the floor (and this seemed to happen fairly often), the janitor would come in with this bag of weird orange stuff, almost like kitty litter, that he would sprinkle all over the mess. This happened throughout my entire school career. It was some kind of weird vomit tradition that all janitors had sworn to uphold. I always use to think, "Why doesn't he just get the mop and clean it up?"

Favorite classroom: One teacher put a rug in the corner so that we could go and sit there to read. I loved that. And the main thing I loved about all the classrooms was that one whole wall was all windows. I spent many hours staring out those windows, watching snow fall or daydreaming.

A significant elementary school memory: We were walking down to the gym, and another teacher was coming up the same hall with her class. I can still remember the exact place I was standing -- in a patch of sunlight on that grey linoleum floor in the tunnel between the school and the gym. The two teachers stopped and practically bumped into each other, and started laughing and joking around about which class had the right of way. I can remember watching them and thinking, "They love this. They love being teachers. " And I decided right then that whatever I did when I grew up, it would be something I loved doing.

Favorite teacher: In second grade, my teacher loved to dance. Every afternoon, we would push back all the desks, and in the middle of the room, she would teach us to dance. I don't remember what else we learned that year, but that is the main thing I've remembered -- how good it feels to move my body to music.

Best seasonal memory: Every year, sometime late in October, we would get the first snow. We'd be sitting in the classroom, with this whole wall of windows right next to us, and snowflakes would start coming down. Nudges and whispers would begin moving around the room, and pretty soon we'd all be looking out at the snow. Even the teacher would say something.

Usually, the first snow doesn't stick, usually not enough for snowforts or sledding, but still that first snowfall did something to the classroom. Suddenly, the warm, well-lit room with its clusters of desks would seem cosy. I'd look around at my classmates, and realize how well we knew each other. Many of the kids I'd known since kindergarten, of course, but even any transfer students would be part of the group now. The room had become our classroom, decorated with our construction paper artwork and neatly stapled Friday spelling tests done on ditto masters that included seasonal pictures to color. That first snow always made us seem like a family.

What I wanted to be when I grew up: In first grade, I announced that I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. And have lots of kids.


Jenevieve said...

You and I are the only two people I know that are doing what we wanted to do in second grade.


Jenevieve said...

(Or first. I read "second" for some reason. Oh, well.)

YourFireAnt said...

That stuff the janitor sprinkled on the barf. (Our janitor used pink, by the way, but it's the same stuff.) A friend of mine is a janitor right now in a high school, and he uses that stuff often. He told me that it dries up the puke. It is some kind of chemical that sucks the moisture out, so that you can more or less just sweep up.

I don't even want to know what it's made out of.

Linda (FM) said...

The memories of the orange stuff used to cover puke instantly brought the smell to mind. Such a distinctive odor, permanently etched in my memory.

It's interesting, when you wrote about the wall of windows in the classroom, the first thing that came to my mind was how fun it was to catch a glimpse of the first snowflakes each winter through the windows of my elementary school classrooms. I don't remember a teacher ever being bothered by the disruption caused when one of us spotted it and told the class to look. We always went over to the windows to watch for a few minutes.

Jane Dark said...

There are three of us, Jenevieve. *waves wildly*

And Jo(e), excellent meme. That orange stuff is disgusting.

Sarah said...

I totally agree about the uniforms...after 8 years of uniforms, I honestly missed them when I went off to high school and had to figure out what to wear every morning! The green knee-sock detail forces me to ask...were your uniforms dark green plaid, by any chance?

Songbird said...

I love your catalog of memorable smells, especially paste.

cheesehead said...

Ah, the smell of paste (do they even make that stuff any more?) and the "barf sawdust". I will never forget those smells.

What interesting memories this brought up for me...

Chip said...

wow that brings back memories! And the weird thing is, I had a Hawaiian nun too!!!

jo(e) said...

Yourfireant: Thanks for the random info about vomit.

Sarah: The uniforms were a green-grey plaid.

Chip: You and I have the strangest things in common.

Marie said...

*Waving too* Me too, me too! I always wanted to be a teacher. I never imagined I would want to be anything else.

molly said...

We moved around a lot and I went to too many public elementary schools to keep count. I have this one memory, though, of the 6th grade. I'd just entered this school, and was being introduced by my new teacher to the class. I was making my way to my desk, and my feet, in their new, shiny black patent leather shoes, flew out from underneath me, and I landed flat on my ass. What a way to start!

Scrivener said...

I have never before heard of orange gunk to dry up vomit. I don't remember kids throwing up in elementary school very often, and when they did the janitor just mopped it up.

I do remember seeing the first snowflakes out the window, though. They were also the only snowflakes my entire time living in South Florida, during first grade. All classes stopped so we could go outside and play in the snow, which melted as it touched us or the ground. But it was actual snow. If I remember correctly, I was wearing short sleeves at the time.