To say that I was an active child is probably a bit of an understatement. Go to an older dictionary and look up the term “attention deficit disorder.” Next to the definition, you will find my third grade class picture. My mom recently returned all of my report cards to me from kindergarten through the fourth grade (she must have found them in a box, and having read the teacher comments, she broke down crying and decided to get them out of her presence once and for all). The report cards that were sent home had an empty box next to the subject for the teacher to write in a grade, and there were four boxes for each quarter. In each quarter, there was also a space for the teacher to write her comments to the parent. In looking at all of the report cards, there was a reoccurring theme.
Kindergarten— “Ronnie is progressing in his school work, but he has difficulty in getting along with others. He starts fights with other boys and girls.”
1st Grade— “Ronnie must understand that the classroom is for learning, not acting. He works well until his own work is finished.”
2nd Grade— “I’m hoping that Ronnie will improve in his study habits and citizenship, because he has outstanding abilities.”
3rd Grade— “Ronnie has become very careless with his work. Neatness is not part of his work and he hurries and does not do as good a job as he is capable of doing.”
4th Grade— “If Ronald will continue to improve his conduct, I hope he will have earned a “C” by the next grading period.”
The next grading period— “I believe Ronald could be an excellent student if he would take more thought in improving his conduct.”
There is a definite pattern in these comments from five different teachers. They were obviously being as kind as they could, when what they really wanted to say was, “Mrs. Bay, your son is a hellion!” It seems that Citizenship-Conduct really had me stumped and a “D” grade was not uncommon. Thank goodness that particular curriculum was dropped off the report card after fourth grade.
It wasn’t like I didn’t get good grades; I generally received A’s and B’s. I think it was more the fact that the teachers had to spend an inordinate amount of time saying things like this: “Ronnie, please sit down.” “Ronnie, please turn around.” “Ronnie, leave Susie alone.” “Ronnie, don’t cut in line.” While going through the report cards I noticed that I was in summer school in the first, second, and fourth grades. Why third grade was skipped, I’m not sure. It had to be an oversight on someone’s part. Since I got good grades, there had to be another reason. Hmmm. I also found out that there was a reason I started kindergarten at the age of four. Mom admitted that me being in school, in the care of someone else, would be better for all. I was as much of a handful alone, as the other three siblings combined. You get the picture. It was like I had ants in my pants and couldn’t sit still. They didn’t have drugs back then, well, at least not the legal kind, and there weren’t enough punishments to fix the problem. Maybe a frontal lobotomy might have done the trick. I have yet to visit a counselor.
In some of the earlier grades, we had a period that was called nap time. Did they really think they could get me to take a nap with thirty other little distractions around me? All the children were instructed to bring a towel from home, and at the appointed time, we would roll out our towel and all lie down and close our eyes, etc. For some reason, I couldn’t sleep. In our class, at the back of the room, there was a walk-in closet where all the kid’s coats, sweaters, and lunches were stored. The teacher took me to the coat closet and told me that this was a special place to take a nap, and because I was such a special child, I would get to take my nap in the coat closet.
Even though it probably seemed like a good idea to her at the time, it’s only because she didn’t think ahead far enough to realize what I might do in the coat closet by myself. I eventually knew what every kid was having for lunch, and I tried on all of the sweaters and coats that the kids had brought to school. When I got bored with that, I began to bother the kids napping nearest the coat closet. Needless to say, when the report card came, next to napping, I received and incomplete.
This is an excerpt from the book Little Heathens, which can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million and other fine on line retailers.