No back-to-school sentimentalities

In a few weeks children across America will be returning to the classroom. Meanwhile, Back to School sales abound on Main Street and in shopping malls.

One thing is certain: I do not envy the children going back to school. I was not a motivated student and was more than happy to be set free I mean graduate nearly 50 years ago.

That said, I do have many memories from my school days – some of them good.

I got off to a good start with a wonderful kindergarten teacher. Kindergarten was a nine-week, all-day program in the spring of 1954. My greatest academic hurdle: learn to tie my shoes.

My maternal grandmother gave me a writing tablet at the beginning of each school year and my first grade tablet cover bore a photo of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Early in the year our teacher collected our tablets and then doled out paper as we needed it.

To my horror, she doled it out indiscriminately. One day she handed out paper to all students from one student’s tablet. Another day she distributed paper from another student’s tablet, including from my Roy Rogers and Dale Evans tablets. This was my introduction to socialism. I hated it.

At the end of the week I asked if I could take my tablet home for the weekend. I did not return it on Monday. I used the other students’ paper. This was my introduction to the welfare system. I hated this, too, but I was not sharing from my Roy Rogers and Dale Evans tablet.

Second grade was much better. It was the year I learned about lust.

Our teacher was a beautiful young woman who often wore Crinoline petticoats. When we sat in our little reading circle teacher on her adult chair and we little rug rats on our tiny chairs – I could see her petticoat peeking out from under her dress. Her beautifully coiffed blond hair and her pretty red lips made it difficult to focus on our reading primer characters, Alice and Jerry and their friendly village.

My love of reading won out, fortunately, but all subsequent teachers were judged against this woman.

Third grade went smoothly.

I will forever be grateful to my fourth grade teacher. One day as noon recess ended I was caught by another teacher peeking through a BB hole in the girls’ restroom window. The furious woman dragged me to my classroom where she loudly announced to my teacher what she had caught me doing.

I was so ashamed. I wasn’t a pervert; I was just curious. Worst of all, I didn’t see anything through that stupid BB hole.

My wonderful teacher took my arm from the grip of the enraged one and gently said, “Arvid, take your seat.” Nothing more was said about the incident. This was my introduction to mercy. I loved it.

I adored my fifth grade teacher. I fear, however, that she went to her grave thinking I didn’t.

It is around fifth grade when the little filter between the brain and the mouth begins working in children. My filter was faulty.

Inappropriate things came to my brain and flowed to my mouth without the benefit of a functioning filter. The teacher kicked me out into the hall a number of times.

This teacher was an older, single lady and she probably didn’t understand about 11-year-old boys who lack a filter. Other than that she was a wonderful teacher and a great lady.

We all grew up a bit on the first day of sixth grade when we discovered our teacher was a man. He was a good guy but he took no sass. Early in the year one of the girls mouthed off to him and with lightning speed he slapped her across the face. Hard.

My brain-to-mouth filter matured significantly that day.

In February of sixth grade my family moved to northwest Iowa. Though we were there for only a short time, my teacher there made a profound impact on my life. He introduced me to the joy of writing by helping me direct my sometimes unfiltered thoughts to paper.

A few years later, however, when I was asked what I wanted most out of high school, I answered, “Myself.”