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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Rant #1,858: Look Through My Window


Today is March 9, the 68th of the year (the 69th day in leap years).

Since it is the 68th day of the year, I thought I would look back at 1968.

On March 9, I was still 10 years old, ready to turn the ripe old age of 11 more than a month later.

I was going to the new P.S. 30, a newly constructed school on the grounds of Rochdale Village, South Jamaica, Queens.

Since I was 10 years old, I was in third grade, and I had Mrs. Johnson as a teacher.

(I can't even remember what grade I was in in 1968--I think it was third grade, it may have been fourth, but whatever the case, I am going to talk about third grade today, because for whatever reason, I remember more about it than fourth grade, where I had one teacher after the other after our original teacher left us in the middle of the year.)

Mrs. Johnson was a bit of a tough teacher. She preached excellence, and if you couldn't reach her level of excellence, you heard about it from her.

She also preached performance.

One time, we were learning about the different directions--north, south, east, west, northeast, southeast, southwest, northwest--and I just could not get it at all.

So what did she do? She embarrassed me by putting me, in front of my fellow students, in the middle of the classroom, and read out the different directions, and I had to point to the proper direction, and she would not let me sit down until I got them all right.

That is not part of today's curriculum, and would be frowned upon today, but back then, you could get away with such stuff, and I got my just desserts. I did not sit down until I got all the directions right, and I must have been sweating a bucket standing in front of the class like that.

And to this day, I have a hard time with these type of directions--my sense of direction is still pretty bad--so sorry, Mrs. Johnson, whatever you did to me did not work.

She required that we purchase an expensive hard-cover dictionary--I remember, it cost about $20 and back then, that was a lot of money--and a lot of people complained, but she wanted us all to be on the same page when it came to knowing what words meant, so we had to have that dictionary.

Still, I had really good year in Mrs. Johnson's class.

I managed to get A's in everything, with the exception of two areas that I still don't excel in.

I got two U's for unsatisfactory on my report card, and they were for French and Penmanship.

I was in what was not called but was considered an honors track, so they tried something different with us.

We were given a foreign language in third and fourth grade, and that language was French.

And we were also assigned a teacher who was anti-male, very partial to the girls, and everyone knew it.

Madame Nahames was her name, and she simply did not take well to the boys in our class--and I have heard from others who had her that she was the same way in their classes, too.

She bent over backwards for the girls, but when it came to the male of the species, well, she had no patience.

All the boys in my class detested French, and when she came into the class to teach the language to us, I am sure we just loved it.

We fooled around, didn't listen, and personally, I came away with little from her two years of teaching us French, which continued into the fourth grade.

I remember very little, but we used to get back at her in our own way.

I think "le bra" is "the arm," and we would get back at her by saying that term with emphasis, which used to rile her to no end.

I guess even at that age, in our young male minds we knew that what we were giggling about and what she was talking about were two different things, and it used to get her goat when we would put the extra emphasis on that term.

And as for penmanship, I was never able to write clearly for other people to understand, which continues to this day.

As a kid, I tried, but I could not get it to the point where my writing was legible.

I was one of the kids prohibited from writing with a pen into the fourth and fifth grade, but why they put that on me doesn't make sense, didn't then and doesn't when I look back.

I guess they thought that with a pencil, I could erase something if it was not right, but it was still not going to look right, and the erasing made my page look like it had sort of a writing acne.

And let's not even get into cursive writing … even today, when I take notes, I print everything.

Cursive writing is curses to me, was then, and still is.

My handwriting is still terrible, but I remember that I was taken out of class to learn penmanship, which certainly did not work.

The teacher who worked with me once or twice eventually threw up her hands and said, "Larry, you write like a lefty."

I took that as a compliment, because my father was left handed, so I continued to write like I write ...

And I became a writer to boot. So there!

Anyway, looking back at 1968, for me, it was a good year, a year where I got one step closer to growing up, one step closer to being an adult, but with one foot still into being a kid.

Sure, it was an awkward age, but with the awkwardness came a lot of fun.

I was a kid, with no real worries in the world.

What could be bad?

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