Fourth grade wasn’t easy for me. In fact, it was by far the hardest of all grades in school to me.
Lost as last year’s Easter egg was how I spent the majority of it. It wasn’t the curriculum that had me scratching my head. It was the teacher.
That woman never did like me.
As a child it seemed my attention span had some what of a quirky deficiency.
A good illustration would be the ride home from church one Sunday. It was filled with graphic details from my mother about the whooping that about to commence on my rear end. She claimed I was fidgeting, swinging my leg, chewing gum, playing with my hair, flipping loudly through the hymnal, writing various notes, drawing smiley faces, stars, and stick people, instead of listening to the sermon.
That is….until I was able to summon up the same scripture, three points and six sub points of the morning’s message.
By the time we got home, she was telling me to be quiet because she had already heard the sermon once, she didn’t need to hear it again.
Paying attention has never been the problem. Paying attention like normal folks has always been a struggle.
I was one of those annoying kids that have an excuse for everything and questioned everything else. I know this because I still find myself doing it as an adult.
I don’t know how old my fourth grade teacher was. I figure she had been set up with AARP for a while. Her hair was short with more gray than not. She had beady eyes that looked through bifocals. Lines surrounded her lips. She still had her real teeth and they were crooked on top.
She sat on a small frame and reminded me of Mr Rogers by the year-round cardigan sweater she wore.
At almost 40 years old, reflecting on my fourth grade year seems silly. But there had to be something that made it bad. Or made me bad.
I don’t recall any traumatic events in my life.
My brother was starting his first year at Mississippi State University and was no longer at home with us.
It wasn’t until the following year ‘91 both my maternal grandparents died as well as several of my extended family members.
I wasn’t influenced by peers. Probably because I was more of the ring leader.
I don’t remember ever being bullied. Or if I was, mama and daddy told me to get over it. So I did.
Actually fourth grade was the first time all my spend-the-night buddies and I were in the same class.
I even considered myself fortunate that year. I did not have to ride the bus to school in the mornings.
Afternoons weren’t so pleasant. I’d ride the bus to my grandmother’s house. I enjoyed it once I got there. A boiled hotdog always waited for me on a toasted bun with mayonnaise every afternoon.
I’d watch Andy Griffith and the local news til mama or daddy got home. As soon as I could pick their car out in the ball of dust the old gravel road kicked up, out the door I’d go. I’d run six acres over a beaten path in the sage grass to our house. Usually beating them to the door.
Daddy would work on things outside and mama would start supper.
Nothing was out of the ordinary in my life that year.
My parents had even gotten me a new puppy that year. It was a last ditch effort to get me to sleep by myself. It was a toy poodle and colored as white as a lily. We named him Satchmo Louis.
At first the dog went over like that of a rock in the Ladies Auxiliary punch bowl. I cried the first week I had him. I had done the math. Unless Jesus intervened, I would out live the new dog. I didn’t want another dog die.
It hadn’t been long since my previous dog, Charlie, had a run in with the mailman’s tire. I discovered him in the ditch while getting off the school bus. I remember running to tell Grandmother through face of tears.
I can still feel Granddaddy kiss me on the forehead as he walked out the front door. Across the front yard he went, with a hammer.
Needless to say, I skipped the hotdog that day.
I recollected a lot about that year. Best I can tell my teacher and me had clashing personalities. I was annoying and talked entirely too much for her liking.
I remember her asking “How much sugar does your mama put in her tea”?This teacher never let me lead team projects, be a line leader, or be a door holder. She never gave me encouragement, much less accolades.
She never paddled me. She pinched. She pinched hard and often.
I don’t remember pictures in her room or her speaking of any children. I assumed she was married.
Bless her heart, I don’t know if she battled health issues. I don’t know what personal things she dealt with.
I think academically she was as good of a grade school teacher as they come.
I don’t think she set out to dislike me. I think I just got on her ever living last nerve. And she wasn’t afraid to show it. Or call my mother to the school on more than one occasion to tell it.
Mama always assured me it was my fault. I was in the wrong and that I was going to have to do a lot better.
I did do better. May eventually came and things got a lot better.
She crossed my mind after seeing back to school pics my friends had posted online. One captioned “Praying my fourth grader has a great year”.
I wondered if my old Fourth Grade teacher was still alive. The thought crossed my mind to even visit her. Letting her see Remi Beau and asking if she needed anything.
Unfortunately I did not get the chance, God rest her soul.
If I could tell her anything. I would tell her that I appreciated her and had never forgotten her.
I’d tell her I was sorry, and best I could tell, it was the dogs fault I was such a terrible fourth grade student.