"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Lifetime of Elementary Schools -- Part 1

Earlier this May I went to Chicago. While I was there I took a side trip to visit my old neighborhood...I took some pictures.

Here's a picture of the first elementary school I worked in...this one as a student. I attended Philip Rogers School (1953-1962) from Kindergarten through Eighth grade (the first few years, K through 2, I think, were in portables since there were too many of us for the "main building").

What do I remember about this school? I remember...
  • ...Dr. Benjamin Elkin, the principal, who moonlighted as a children's author. He would read his new books to us. Years later while teaching, I found two of his books. I hadn't remembered them from when I was in school, but I eagerly shared them with my students. They were The 6 Foolish Fishermen and Lucky and the Giant. His 1957 book, Gillespie and the Guards was a Caldecott Honor Book.
  • ...going to the office to talk to Dr. Elkin for a variety of misbehaviors...one particular time the visit included my mother. It was not fun.
  • ...accidentally walking into the male teacher's rest room. I had not been in the building long (it was the beginning of the year that we moved from the portables to the main building). One of the teachers was walking out as I was walking in...and reprimanded me. To his credit, he did ask me how long I had been at this school...and didn't cause any permanent damage.
  • ...being in Art class when we heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot. I was impressed with our teacher's response. How do you tell a group of 8th graders that the president was dead? He stood in front of the class, trying to control his emotions and told us. He was patient as we responded with silence. I don't remember the rest of that day...maybe we went home.
  • ...listening to our music teacher spout political rhetoric. I also remember thinking he was a bit off-kilter. 
  • ...being academically lost most of the time...first because I needed glasses...and second (which I didn't realize for another 35 years) because ADD kept me from focusing. Back then it was called "Minimal Brain Dysfunction." I don't remember being treated for it in any way, other than being told 1) try harder and 2) you can do so much better. Years later, when I was learning about ADHD as a teacher I talked to my mother about my problems in school. She told me about the diagnosis of Minimal Brain Dysfunction and everything fell into place.
  • ...dragging a tenor sax the four blocks to school every day and wondering why I chose such a heavy instrument to learn in band. Then I remember switching to clarinet.
  • ...Mrs. Gilbert reading aloud to us every day. When people ask me the most important thing I remember about my elementary school...this is it. I especially remember the day she finished Charlotte's Web. 
I don't remember...
  • ...taking standardized tests.
If you ask most people what they remember about their elementary school years I would guess that they would answer with stories about teachers, friends, activities. Those are the important things.



Ellen said...

1. I had no idea you had ever played the tenor sax or the clarinet!

2. One of my best memories of elementary school is of Mrs. Eager reading aloud to us. Sometimes she would let a student read aloud instead. Oh, the joy when she asked me to do it!

PamelaRose said...

I remember Dr. Elkin wrote a book called 'Stone Soup'. Over the years I've seen several books by the same title all by different authors....but I think his was the first?

Stu said...

Pamela, Stone Soup is an old folk tale rewritten by many authors. Dr. Elkin may have written a version. Gillespie and the Guards was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1957...probably his best known book.