Thursday, July 8, 2010

Looking back at a very young self

Doctor's orders: stay off feet as much as possible while broken foot heals.  So I got out some boxes of old papers and photos I've been meaning to go through for ages.  Kind of amazed to find my old report cards from elementary school.  They tell an interesting story.  Here are a few from first and second grade: 

First grade, second half: 

Second grade, first half:

This was the situation: We lived in a small town in southern Oregon.  My brothers and friends and I were outside all the time from the time school let out until supper and then often until bath and bedtime.  Weekends my family spent on my grandparents farm on a dead end road in the hills at the edge of the valley with our extended family (we were related to most of the people on last segment of the road).  Cousins ran loose in the fields and woods in between meals and other interesting family events.  I got PLENTY of fresh air and exercise.  And with that many people around, plenty of socializing.

I was excited about school. I already knew how to read and make letters and do simple arithmetic.  I was bored (believe me, Dick and Jane was even dumber and more boring than you've been told).   I was entranced by learning, and lusted for the interesting books for older kids I found in the classroom.  I seized every chance I could to read them (and get some quiet time, which was hard for me to come by).  

I think a lot of teachers don't actually think about what is going on, and don't bother to ask the questions that would illuminate a child's experience.  There were rules, and rules must be followed.  Especially in the America of 1950.  (Think about that next time you wonder why the 60s happened.) 

At least my first grade teacher recognized my leanings toward creativity.  But she is also the one who told my mother she should not have taught me my letters, because they no longer used that method to teach reading.  My ploy was to ignore what the teacher was doing and just read ahead on my own, and do arithmetic the way my dad taught me.  Hence the "stubbornness", which has stood me in good stead all my life. 

Now the last half of second grade:

Learning to fit in, though there was still criticism (one of them was that I often didn't color inside the lines of the mimeographed "art" projects, or use the "right" colors!).  By third grade, I asked my parents how old I had to be to leave school.  I was serious.  I was bored stiff.  I wanted out. 

In fourth grade, my parents moved to a different town, and I started a new school, with an enriched program for kids like me, including real instruction in art and science. I was off and running.  I felt challenged and stimulated, and began loving school again. 

And eventually became both the scientist and the artist that child was trying to be.