Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Way-Back Machine

Today, I'm not going to blog about all the stuff I've been doing lately, mainly because it's mostly work and not that interesting--some graphic design/DTP, grading art appreciation essays, giving bookmaking demonstrations in one of Rob's classes, etc. etc. Oh. I celebrated my birthday, too. That was fun. I got a new video game for the DS from Rob, which I don't currently have time to play, and some other little goodies from friends and family.

No, today, for some reason, I found myself thinking back to elementary school--specifically, a rather odd school in Ontario (California) I attended from about age 5 to age 7 called Groter School. I Googled it and didn't immediately find anything at all pertaining to the place, so I'm thinking maybe I'm preserving it for posterity here. My mom sent me to Groter School because, evidently, at the time it was the only school in the area that could accommodate gifted kids. We lived in the Rancho Cucamonga area, which wasn't very densely populated at the time.

So my mom finds Groter, which was a relatively nontraditional school. Now, by "nontraditional" what I really mean is "so traditional it's become nontraditional by modern standards." (This will make more sense as I continue the story.) Groter was ungraded, and set up along the lines of a one-room schoolhouse, only there were really two rooms. There was a building with a classroom or two for the younger kids (about K through 2 or 3) and then a separate building with one classroom for all the older kids (3rd through 6th grades, approximately).

The first year I was there, I was in the back building with the littler kids. The two buildings were separated by a rather small courtyard in which various hazardously cramped games of soccer and volleyball were played. There was also a grassy field in back, but I remember the courtyard more because of a couple of memorable ball-in-the-face incidents, one of which resulted in a bloody nose and the other resulting in one of my loose teeth getting knocked out. I seriously did not play soccer for years after that.

That was the second year, though. I don't remember too much from the first year in that back building. One memory I have is of a teacher who would come in periodically (once a week? maybe less often?) to teach us "improvisation." This was basically modern dance for kindergartners. All I remember is, I really liked it because it involved a lot of romping around on the floor, and the teacher was this African-American guy wearing a unitard. The second memory I have of being in the little kids' class was having a rather dictatorial teacher insisting that everybody color with "short, even strokes" (inside the lines, of course--that goes without saying). I clearly recall making a conscious decision to color with long, uneven strokes but trying to do it so well that she'd never know the difference. In retrospect, I ask myself, what's the point?

She also wouldn't let me go to the bathroom one day, and I remember having to pee in my pants as a result. I remember frantically checking and re-checking the orange plastic seat of my chair and hoping I wasn't wetting it. Of course, I then got reprimanded for peeing my pants. It doesn't surprise me, when I look at the technique in some of the pictures I colored at the time, that I seemed to be very angry.

The last thing I remember from that first year was that we started learning Penmanship, i.e., cursive handwriting. But they insisted on calling it penmanship. It was very much like (and may indeed have been) super-traditional Palmer-style handwriting. In fact, I strongly suspect our book was a part of this series. I remember having to copy out parts of the Gettysburg Address (which, incidentally, I would have to memorize and recite the following year in the big kids' class). I did not do very well at penmanship. I mean, jeez, I was only 5 or 6. Ironically, my handwriting is very nice now, if I'm not scrawling in a hurry.

When I graduated to the big kids' class, things got crazy for different reasons. I think I'll save that for my next post. Now that I'm sitting down to think about it, I actually remember a lot. Weird. And I still can't remember stuff I did last week.

2 comments:

TadMack said...

The gifted school I taught at was for 'gifted kids with learning disabilities.' We used a penmanship technique that sounds similar, but I really hope we weren't that weird about it. My mom has a teacher (at her school) who is insistent about coloring like that. It drives her mad.

...Now for the rest of the day I'm going to think about an African American man in a unitard. That's very...surreal. It was probably brightly colored, no?

Ah, the 80's. So much for which to answer...

a. fortis said...

Luckily for everyone, I believe the dance teacher's unitard was gray or blue. It was something nondescript.

Yup, the 80s...sigh. I was looking at some old pictures of me from around this time and I was wearing bright red corduroy pants. Yay.