From my first day of preschool when I wore a plaid jumper with a delightful Scottie-dog emblazoned on the bib to my last day of being an undergraduate, I loved school. I love the way pink erasers smell fresh out of the package. I would rub them between my fingers, preparing them for their work ahead. In middle school I glued a notebook to the front of a plastic folder for each course and created a custom cloth cover for each notebook. I can remember in vivid detail the outfits I wore on the first day of school for at least 8 of my 16 years of formal education. And I can remember loving all of my teachers, at least in retrospective analysis. All but one, my first grade teacher, the woman who unwittingly became the person I silently picture flipping off every time I do something right, the one who almost made me think that being smart was a punishment from God.
By day three she was annoyed with me – I kept throwing my hand up to tell her I had finished my assignment moments after she settled into her chair to prepare for the next move. She would roll her eyes and offer to help me complete it correctly, assuming I faked it because of my quickness. Exasperated that I completed her lessons too quickly, she told me to stop making the other children feel badly about their performance by bragging. In retrospect I probably did brag, I was that sort of a kid, but I was also a 7-year-old kid.
After the first week Ms. Fussface had a new rule for me, I had to put my head on my desk and close my eyes, no talking, after I completed my assignments. Somewhere during that week I told my mom that I hated school and didn’t want to go any more. I hated feeling punished for doing my work well and quickly. Hearing this statement from a child who acted like back to school shopping was better than Christmas, my mom transformed into Momma Bear. She went to the school, spoke with my teacher, the principle, anyone who would listen to her. She didn’t stop until Fussface acquiesced – after three weeks of feeling like learning was against the rules at school I was finally allowed to read silently at my desk when my assignments were complete.
I read everything I could get my hands on that year, realizing that I had to carve out my own education in Fussface’s room, she wasn’t going to work with me at all. At age 7 I knew that not all adults would cater to my needs, a good thing to know in general, a terribly sad truth when it comes to your educational provider.
Yesterday I was ready for Twinkle to take on first grade. Today I am remembering every detail of that year in my own life and praying the memories that make the cut for a permanent place in her psyche are ones of joy and learning. If not, at least my Momma taught me how to Momma Bear my way into getting my kids the treatment they deserve. Thanks Mom!