elf hill

Honour Your Inner Magpie

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another question on growing up
elf hill
OK, I'm reading Barb Jensen's book READING CLASSES, as I'm sure some of you are going to get tired of hearing, and the bits about school and the inculcation of certain values are interesting to me, because I didn't go to public school until high school.

I won't limit this question to the US, but I will ask people to identify where they were, so I can get some kind of geographical idea of things.

What were your first eight years of school like, if you went to school?

I'll start. My school was one room with a curtain down the middle of it that could be pulled to divide it into the Upper Grade Room (5-8) and the Lower Grade Room (1-4). There were kindergartners who came half-days, and they met in the kitchen. (It was a one-room school attached to the church, so there was an itty bitty kitchen, and the classrooms doubled as the place we had church potlucks and stuff.)

There was no science equipment, so we didn't have science classes at all.

There was some playground equipment outside (swings, two teeter-totters, a ladder thing to swing under with your hands but no big monkeybars like the public school had) and there was a backstop for playing baseball.

The schoolbooks were pretty old. I don't know where they came from.

There was no library, but there were a few books in the low bookcase along one wall. And we got the Scholastic Books order blanks, but the teachers would tell us which books we weren't allowed to order.

Oh, and there were two teachers. One for the Upper Grade Room, and one for the Lower Grade Room. And somebody came in to teach the kindybeaners half-days.

It was a fundamentalist Lutheran parochial school in the Midwest, in case anybody wondered what flavor it was.

How about you?

I went to a very expensive and progressive private school in NYC called Ethical Culture. I was on scholarship, along with 25% of my class. It is located in a 150 year old building. In the auditorium, it says above the stage, "The Place Where People's Minds Meet is Holy Ground." It is secular and humanist.

I remember it as heavenly except for a few incidents and a few children I disliked. I felt loved, and supported. We did art, science, music, literature, history. We did plays about the Greek gods in 4th grade (I was Aphrodite in the tale of Eris & The Apples of Discord).

We had a playground on the roof of the building, and the swings faced Central Park. When you swung it felt like you were going to fly over the park.

Every week, starting in 1st grade, we had Ethics Classes where we would discuss scenarios about different things - is it wrong to steal? What about if you are feeding your starving family? We were led in these discussions, but not lectured. We were expected to come to our own conclusions. Ethics classes continued all the years I attended.

Our sex ed began in pre-K. We had a book called "How Babies Are Made" and our teacher read it to us. In 6th grade we had a special co-ed track in science class about sex, including what masturbation was, how to use condoms, and recognizing STIs.

We had (and the school still has) as wood paneled library, filled with books, a huge fireplace, and beanbags for lounging on while you read.

We were encouraged to read everything.

If you were exceptionally good, you got sent to the Principal's Office. The principal's office had a blue sky with a rainbow, and a loft with stuffed animals and tons of books. He read you a story, let you hang out in the reading loft, and when you left you were given a rainbow sticker.

Our principal (until 4th grade when he left) stood on the steps and shook the hand of each child as they came to school in the morning. On Mickey Mouse's birthday, he wore a Mickey tie and socks. We loved him very much.

I really hope that Jaeger is able to attend.


Are you serious? This is awesome!

kindergarten and second, third, and fifth and sixth grades at a yeshiva, half the day english studies and half the day hebrew.

first grade at an illustrious private school. i got kicked out of math class for mentioning that the number line went less-than-zero too and you could do addition with vectors, and placed in a separate class to learn quilting.

skipped fourth grade.

seventh and eighth at an "experimental" public school, lots of fun, wide variety of elective coursework.

I went to public schools in the Seattle area from kindergarten to 12th grade. My elementary schools were large, with at least four classes per grade. I went to one elementary school for half day morning kindergarten, another school for grades 1-3 (in which they put me in an enrichment program because I was a very bored and very smart child), and yet another for 4-6 because of a district boundary switch AND because I was put into the Highly Capable program (aka the gifted program). We had all the subjects and large playgrounds, and the schoolbooks were pretty up-to-date. There were libraries. I'd say most of my classmates and I were middle-class.

I was going to public school in Syracuse, New York. (At one point, my parents considered sending me to a private school, and we had a visit there. I hated everything about it with a deep passion that I do not understand now at all, but that was enough to derail that notion.)

For kindergarten through 6th grade, we had one classroom for each grade. I think there were about 25 kids in a class. We had books and (it seemed to me) sufficient other materials. Blackboards. Places in the room to hang student art or posters. Windows. Nothing super-fancy, but also nothing obviously missing. Punishment was not corporal, but was things like what would now be called a "time out."

7-8 were junior high, further away, and the start of traveling from class to class during the day, and having a "homeroom." As far as my memory goes, it was pretty similar to grade school except for the traveling part. Hall passes. "Up" and "down" staircases. A pretty tyrannical vice-principal. Again, the perception that there was enough of everything, and not much extra.

I grew up on a farm just 3 miles outside a small town in central MO (about 700 population). We no longer had country schools by then. I walked about 1/4 mile to the highway where the schoolbus picked me up.

We didn't have a kindergarten available when I started, although the Lutheran school in town started kindergarten at some point (don't remember when), so I started with 1st grade. Each grade had its own room and its own teacher. Grades 1-8 were all in one building and the cafeteria was in the basement. The high school was next door. The playground had swings and slides and teeter-totters. I don't remember monkey bars, but there could have been some. I remember jumping rope on the blacktop outside the building.

I don't remember special science equipment in grade school. I don't remember how we had music classes in the lower grades, although I remember a piano in the 1st grade classroom, at least. In 5th grade you could start taking band, but I didn't start until 6th grade when my folks decided they could afford a used clarinet. I had been taking piano lessons since 3rd grade, so I could read music. In 7th & 8th grade I was out of the regular classroom for band and chorus. I have no idea what students who didn't take band did. I suspect we all had chorus, but I don't remember any more.

There was a high school library, but in grade school the bookmobile came every two weeks. In the lower grades, the teachers would check out books and they would be on shelves at the back of the classroom. In the 2nd grade, I sat in the seat in that back corner of the room, right in front of the library books and the World Book. When we were learning to write, I would hurry through my lines of letters, so I could get back to the book in my lap. (My 3rd grade teacher wrote that I would do better in my school work if I wasn't in such a hurry to get back to the book I was reading)

When I was in the 7th grade, they closed the grade school in a very small neighboring town and started busing those students to my school. I think they only had one or two teachers for that school.

The year I was in 8th grade, they moved grades 5-8 into a new addition that connected the grade school and the high school, and grades 5-8 had different teachers for different subjects. Students stayed in one classroom and the teachers moved.

My high school graduating class had 37 students in it, but I don't know how many students were in the average classroom when I was in grade school. Several of the classes after me were large enough that they were split into two classes for 1st & 2nd grade (at least, I just don't remember after that)

In other trivia, my mom's first & 2nd grade teacher in the country school was my 2nd grade teacher, too.

Hope that all made sense.

Edited at 2012-11-05 12:18 am (UTC)

I attended grade school in the 1960s. The closest we came to sex ed was a class where the boys all went someplace else and the girls watched a filmstrip (sponsored by Kotex) about being a woman.

I went to three different schools during that time, but the first two are most pertinent. I grew up in NYC.

1) A tiny progressive school for soi-disant gifted children, run by a woman we all called Professor out of the first floor of her house, which she outfitted quite well into two classrooms, lunchroom, library (a little room lined with bookshelves) and her office. She deliberately created a rainbow of ethnicities in the school, and I remember loving it a lot. At 20 I spent a summer working there, and it was very odd to see it from a teacher's perspective.

2) A solid old NYC institution where I lasted three years and had my first experiences with being a freckle on the student body, being ostracized due to demographics, and being taken in by a group of my fellow outcasts; the Jewish kids adopted me. The school's infrastructure was magnificent, with many classrooms ranging through an entire massive building, and the library was a well-stocked refuge.

I went to public schools (two elementary schools, junior high (grades 7-9), high school) in suburbs of Wilmington, Delaware from 1960 to 1971.

The typical class size was about 28 students. The buildings were clean and well-maintained, but boring.

From seventh grade on, students were tracked by academic ability. I was in the top class, which remained almost completely stable except for one boy who was there for a few years.

I'm not sure how many classes there were in a grade-- I was in 7-11, but that was somewhere in the middle of the sequence. I assumed it was because they thought students would be too stupid to figure out the ranking.

The library was adequate for what I wanted-- science fiction. They had Heinlein juveniles, Asimov, Conklin anthologies... There must have been other books I read (not counting Andre Norton, whose books didn't grab me) but not much is coming back except for The Tyranny of Words, an introduction to General Semantics.

Not a lot of playground equipment-- swings (the flat metal seats you could jump off of-- much more interesting that the kind you can't), seesaws (younger kids), some rather high monkey bars (older kids)-- I'm pretty sure we called them monkey bars. Something with a more complex structure would be called a jungle gym. Oh, and there were slides, possibly just at the elementary school.

If I remember correctly, the textbooks were mostly new, or at least in good condition. I wasn't sophisticated enough to check copyright dates.

It was de facto segregated. Not all suburbs in the area accepted Jews.

We had labs. The high school had a computer with punch tape.

Bullying was ignored or not noticed by the adults.

Packed--big classes in elementary school, and an enormous junior high (grades seven through nine), --this was west Los Angeles, late fifties, first part of sixties. Huge emphasis, especially in those early days, on patriotism and conformity. Lots of peer pressure, badly managed due to the enormous numbers. Some texts dated back to the war years, others were newer, all emphasized America the great melting pot with its endless resources, led by fine white men.

From the second half of K through 8th grade, I went to Wingra School, which is a private, hippy-run Progressive Model school in Madison, Wisconsin.

We had open classrooms, which in this context meant no desks. Each classroom was mixed age (K-1, 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8) and had child-sized tables, bookshelves full of learning materials, and a loft, as well as various cozy reading nooks made from things like oversized boxes.

If we weren't in a lesson with a teacher (most instruction was done in small groups), we could chat quietly with our friends while doing our work. Starting in 4th grade, we were given a "plan sheet," which was a weekly list of work we had to complete, and allowed to mostly plan our own time. (Students who floundered were given some extra help with staying on track.)

There was a great deal of emphasis on creativity and child-driven learning. This was great in some ways (it was a great place to be a nascent writer) and less so in others (my history education was LACKING. Like, almost entirely.)

Someone else mentioned sex ed, so let me tell you a funny story. When I was in sixth grade, the middle school was still very new. The school really loved using parent volunteers to cover various topics -- this could be excellent, like the time a mother of a younger student came in to give us a no-holds-barred talk about her experiences with alcohol and drug abuse. (She was in recovery, and explained AA and how she got sober along with how she got into drugs and alcohol.) However, they also had a parent who was a sex therapist, and someone had the bright idea to bring her in to do sex ed.

I don't actually remember THAT talk at all but according to the family story, I came home that night and over dinner said brightly, "Today in school we learned that oral sex is very important to a woman's sexual satisfaction. Do you like oral sex, mom?"

...I was TEN, if you're wondering.

The following year, we had two nurses from Planned Parenthood who came in with a shoebox full of sample things to pass around and look at, and I remember that we learned that birth control pills only work if you take them every day, you can't swipe one and take it right before you have sex and expect it to do you any good. MUCH more useful.

Anyway. The teachers were loving and well-intentioned. Mostly every classroom had two: a lead teacher and an assistant, so there was a lot of one-on-one attention and the curriculum could be very customized. The middle school was not a good environment for me, unfortunately, as the lead teacher for when I was in 7th and 8th grade was Judy (oh, hey, we called all the teachers by their first names, too) and she hated me. I have in my box of old school records the scalding, vitriolically negative descriptive report card she wrote for me near the end of 8th grade; it's like looking in a funhouse mirror of my 12-year-old self, as she saw all my flaws and not a single one of my virtues.

This is getting to be a long comment so I will post this as K-8 and then come back with the next year, because, well, I like telling stories about myself, and you asked!

I forgot to describe Wingra's playground. It started out really cool: wood structures, very imagination-oriented, as well as recycled tires and a giant cargo net.

Then everything slowly rotted. First the cargo net, then the structures, a little at a time. Eventually they tore the whole thing down.

It was a hilly playground, and when there was snow, we could sled at recess, using plastic sleds owned by the school.

NZ here, I went through state/public schooling system (note in the UK they call the private schools 'public' just to confuse you)

I lived on the rural edges of our city, so went to a school that did Primary and Intermediate ages ie 5-12. There were separate Intermediate schools available in town but they were optional and my parents didnt want to pay for extra uniforms etc

I went to a state girls only highschool for 4 years by my choice, it was well rated academically, and because I was an out of zone applicant, we had to specially apply and I was one of 4 girls from my year to get in. Had to get two busses to school and back as we lived so far away.

Memories of primary school were it was an old well established school but felt old, very much a building of its time. Class sizes around 20+. They had some facility to cater to bright children (and the reverse), I was put up a year for everything except maths when I was about 8. We had extensive outdoor play area which was expanded while I was there, and fundraising put in a school pool as well.

Highschool was a lot more sophisticated, it was a good school, again well established, had good facilities, proper gym, new library, computer, science, arts, home ec. We did some exchange with the matching boys school next door, they had more proper gym equipment than we did (parallel and uneven bars etc).

I never felt any particular lack of anything during schooling, in primary because we all lived in the area we schooled, so you knew everyone anyway. Highschool we had compulsory uniforms, so that counters a bit of the wealthy showoff, although I did experience some classism there, as I came from more of a blue collar background and a lot of the girls in my class were from white collar. But Kiwis have a reputation for not putting up with a lot of that crap, and if you did well enough academically, it countered the poshness quite nicely as I discovered :)

It would be more noticeable at University, as that is where the rich kids definately had an edge, but I took another career path and didnt go to Uni for my tertiary study.

For kindergarten, I lived in New York City, in Yonkers. I went to P.S 21, I believe. I don't remember a lot of details about the school.

We moved to Germany when I was 6, and I attended the Frankfurt International School for the 1st through 6th grade. It was a private school, paid for by my dad's employer, and was English-speaking. It was attending primarily by foreigners who were either English-speaking or who wanted their kids to learn English as a second language rather than German. There were also a number of rich German kids who attended, who tended to socialize among themselves. I would say it was 50% American, 20% German, 10% British, 10% Japanese, and 20% other.

It was a K-12 school, but I had very little exposure to the high school. Each grade in elementary school had about 4-5 classes, to give you a general idea of the size of the school. There was a large playground out front. We had regular art and music classes. I had private piano lessons from the music teacher at the school for 1st and 2nd grade, before moving to a community piano teacher. German classes started in kindergarten. French started in 4th grade, though it did not get rigorous until 6th grade.

In 6th grade, I started middle school and we had different teachers for different subjects.

I was a shy, socially awkward kid who had trouble making friends. I was pretty lonely. In 6th grade, a couple of boys really made my life miserable with teasing. I was so glad to move back to the US and leave those boys, particularly.

We moved to Cleveland Heights, Ohio when I was 12. It's a big school district. The high school has about 3000 students. I was in one of the 3 junior highs. The east side of Cleveland is largely WASPs, black folks and Jewish folks. I would say my high school was a little over half African-American. Of the white kids, about a third were Jewish. My junior high was a little whiter than that, but I'm not sure about exact numbers. (I'm white.)

It had the standard math, science, english, social studies classes. Everybody was required to take some form of music in 7th and 8th grades. I played bassoon in the band, on a school basson. In 7th grade everybody had 1/3 year of art, 1/3 year of shop and 1/3 year of home-ec. In 8th grade you picked one of the three to do all year. I did art. I was not into athletics, but we had nice facilities. There was a track around a football field. One of the wealthy parents donated money to build tennis courts.

Socially, I did better in Cleveland Heights. Every year after 6th grade was better than the year before it, which was wonderful.

All I remember about those years is lots of bullying, and that the library would only let me take out five books a week--which wasn't even enough books to get me through to the end of Monday, much less to next Monday!

I went to public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

In kindergarten I went to Clara Barton School in Alton, Illinois. The class seemed huge to me; I'd never seen that many kids together before. Maybe thirty? There were a lot of learning aids like posters of numbers and the alphabet, and a gigantic boot that was supposed to teach you to tie your shoes. There was construction paper and crayons and endless coloring. There were cushions and blankets for naptime, and graham crackers and milk for a snack. Nobody got hit, but shaming and sometimes mockery were employed by students and intermittently discouraged by the teacher in ways that did not add up to my five-year-old mind. I was very fond of my teacher, though.

For first and second grade I went to Horace Mann School in the same town, Alton, and for those grades I had the same teacher, Mrs. Patterson. The school was trying a scheme of keeping classes with the same teacher for several grades. I adored Mrs. Patterson, but I don't know how that worked out if you did not get along with your teacher. We had the Dick and Jane books for learning to read, endless tablets of lined paper for learning to print and for doing sums on. By second grade everybody was aware that classes were divided up by how smart the kids in them were. I don't think that's exactly how the tracking system worked, but that is what the kids thought. Everybody knew which was the "smart" class and the "dumb" class, but the ones in the middle were too much for us to figure out. Mrs. Patterson thought well of me, but felt I was too much of a chatterbox.

For third grade we moved to Creve Coeur, Missouri, and I went to Fern Ridge School for third through fifth grades. I didn't like third grade because I hadn't wanted to move. My fourth-grade teacher was a controlling disciplinarian and I am sorry to say that it took me years to realize what a bully she could be if you were not on her good side. We had, for all these grades, textbooks of varying degrees of wear, for reading, math, and social studies. We had music, which meant singing, twice a week. I don't remember any science until sixth grade, but it may just not have really made an impression. I have a lot more memories about incidents with my friends and who got to go over to whose house for cookies; and about things like coming down with the flu and throwing up all over my desk in fourth grade and my father's having to come get me from work because my mother was running a nursery school, than I do of learning stuff.

In sixth grade, at the brand-new Ross School that had been built to relieve the overflowing-with-baby-boomers Fern Ridge, we got a teacher, Mr. Rothman, who had wanted to teach junior high. He decided to just treat us as if we were older. We had science education, we had debates about the 1964 presidential election. We were expected to read the newspaper every evening and be prepared to recite a headline and a summary of the story under it in class the next day. I hated this passionately and refused to do it -- I felt he was stealing the last of my childhood. Reading, Art, and Music were outsourced to other teachers. I really disliked my reading teacher, who was very much like my fourth-grade teacher except that she took against me instead of deciding I was a good kind of child. Mr. Rothman, I strongly suspected, did not think much of her either. He read aloud to us several times a week, including the entirety of A Wrinkle in Time. I always felt this was an act of rebellion on his part because he would dim the lights except by his desk and have us put our heads down on our desks. But he was probably just trying to soothe the savage beasts for half an hour.


I went to a public school in a large town that was abt 40 mins from a large city. All the students walked to school. We walked home for lunch and back again. We had morning and afternoon recess as well and if you got back from lunch early, you could play on the recess grounds. The grounds were all macadam. The playground was segregated. The girls had a swing set and hopscotch and four-square games painted on the macadam. The boys had basketball nets and I think four-square, too. The dividing line was the entrance into the school. I have a boy who was my best from from 4-6th grade. We would sit on the dividing line and talk about books until the teachers yelled at us and told us we had to go play. If we could have played with each other, we wouldn't have had a problem, but both of us we pretty much bored with our peers.

Classrooms had approx 40 kids in them. I laugh now when teachers speak of over-crowding in the schools with class size of about 20-25.

We we mostly a blue collar school, but we had a few 'rich' kids, and more very poor kids than rich kids, so it wasn't a perfect bell curve. We had a decent library in the school--at least I thought so. I buzzed through most of the books though. And the librarian would let you read 'above your grade' which annoyed me no end. I would walk with my friends to the public library and read whatever books I wanted from the children's library, and even go to the adult section and borrow books.

We didn't have a gifted program. My 6th grade teacher had 4 of us sit by ourselves and gave us more challenging work to do or had us tutor the slower kids.

We had an art and a music teacher who came in once a week. We had phys ed 2x a week in the all purpose room that had a stage at one end. My 6th grade teacher had a piano in her room and could play it, so we had music more often, sometimes just because she felt we needed a break. The same with art. Sometimes, with her, we had art every day. Sometimes we created it, sometimes it was more of an art history class.

7-9th grade was called junior high. I was close enough to walk there as well, it took 20 mins. Some of the kids, the rich ones because they lived outside of town in typical suburban neighborhoods took buses. I think 3 elementary schools fed the jr high. We had an old building that a new wing was built onto. The science and math classrooms were in the new wing.

We had homerooms and changed classes. Homerooms were alphabetical. The classes were 'tracked.' There were two groups of the smartest kids. I don't know about the rest. For English and History, the send half of the yr, we chose electives, so you were in class with a mix of students.

I didn't seem to have any of the very poor kids in my classes, but there were more rich kids, and fewer of us working class kids.

In elementary school, everyone was white. In jr high, I forget the percentage, but we had more black students. There was only one black girl in my classes and there was one Jewish guy.

We had 2 jr highs in my district, so those both fed into the big high school.

Devorgil again here.

More interesting questions....

Ok, to set the context, the first eight years of my schooling ran from 1962 to 1970 in a middle-class suburb of Detroit.

For kindergarten, I went to the local public grade school. All I really remember about it was that it was an enormous-seeming room filled with several thousand (from my perspective) noisy and largely incomprehensible children. The teacher was an older lady who pretty much let everyone do as they pleased as long as nobody actually got hurt. I'd get a book out of the little collection of books she kept along one wall and go off to the quietest, most out-of-the-way corner I could find, and spend my day reading. I recall my father's white-hot fury when he discovered that the teacher made us all say a blessing together over our snacks each day; that was around the time that school-sponsored prayer was first being raised as an issue, and he was furious that I was being made to pray before I could eat my snack.

Starting in first grade, my parents - well, really my father, who was determined to prove to the world that his daughter was smarter than anyone else, even though she wasn't - put me in a private school called Roeper School. It was, well, interesting.

At the time I attended, nearly all the classrooms were in this huge old gorgeous mansion at the top of a hill in Bloomfield Hills, a VERY tony and old-money suburb that was WAAAAY out of our family's league. The mansion had been built back in the 1920s, and it had been largely left untouched when George and Annemarie Roeper bought it to turn into a private school. The classrooms were the former parlors and bedrooms of the mansion, and the higher up you got (the building was three stories high), the narrower and meaner the rooms and corridors and stairs became. The lunch-room/assembly room was a former grand ballroom, with high ceilings and molded plaster work, while the art room was in a long, narrow garret overlooking the former swimming pool in the back, clearly a former servants' quarters.

I don't remember a great deal about the academics, save for the fact that it was possible to slide through doing essentially nothing, as long as one was seen as "creative" and "a beautiful child." Never learned a thing about grammar, nothing about history; the people running the school were wildly enthused about math and science, both of which I hated, so I spent most of my time there sitting in the back row of the classrooms reading books. And for that, my parents were shelling out -- well, we won't say how much precisely, but it probably represented about 20% of my dad's annual salary at the time.

And the really strange thing was that even though my father was rabidly antisemitic, he insisted on sending me to a school that at that time was probably 70% Jewish. In hindsight, knowing his personality, I think he was imagining that his daughter would out-perform all the Jewish kids, thereby bringing glory on him and "proving" that gentiles were somehow better than Jews. I always was a bitter disappointment to him; not only did I not out-perform my classmates, I even went so far as to make friends with a few of them. He was horrified.

For seventh and eighth grades, I was sent back to public school. I was a complete outcast there; they thought I was brilliant (incorrectly, as it happens) but weird. Added to that was the fact that I was taller at that point than any of the other girls and most of the boys, so those two years were characterized by bullying and ostracizing. Academically, I suppose the school was like most middle-class-suburban public junior highs; decent library, some good teachers and some not-so-good, nothing the slightest bit controversial, and absolutely no diversity in the student population or the instructors. It was 100% WASP - which was yet another way I didn't fit in, with my agnostic/atheistic family.

School was not a particularly wonderful time for me, as I look back on it. Not sure what would have made it better, but it's not a happy memory at any point along the way.

Public school in Central New Jersey. Kidnergarten was half day, I think, and we had two teachers. We switched halfway through the day, and I remember having math, but maybe not science.

Grade 1-3 I was at the elementary school. We had the same teacher for most of the day, had reading and math and science and social studies, art, music, gym.

3-6 was a middle school, standard subjects as above, I started band in 3rd grade I think, starting with flute and moving to clarinet. I joined choir in 6th grade and dropped band. I had enrichment classes in there somewhere.

7-8 was in the high school, though really it was junior high, as the choir and bands were separate. Started Spanish, was in advanced math (that I shouldn't have been in). Choir was competing and going on trips and such. That would continue in high school.

I attended preschool with about a dozen of the people I graduated high school with.

Let's see what I missed.

I had computers in my classrooms from maybe 3rd grade on? Libraries were always available. My parents knew my teachers, and not just because both of my parents are educators themselves. I knew a few of my teachers before I had them, because they're family friends.

The town I grew up in is 2 square miles, and there's one elementary, one middle, and one high school. The town is very diverse, although it wasn't always. I had folks from a pretty wide range of backgrounds in my classes, even before you count the first generation immigrants, many of whom were my good friends. We didn't hit the "how to help a friend whose parents are trying to force an arranged marriage on her" until high school though.

I spend all my elementary, middle, and high school life in Laredo, Texas on the Texan-Mexican border. From Kindergarten through first grade I went to a private Catholic school that cost my parents a limb every quarter. My mom was a teacher and, sadly, did not trust the public school system to give us a good basis. I did not fit in and had no friends but I had a favorite nun who encouraged my drawing and let me read my way through the small library in the room.

From second grade through high school I was switched to public school where few kids spoke english and thought I was a snob because I did. I was a geeky kid that liked to read and there was some bullying. In high school my best friend discovered me propped against my science class door, nose buried in a book, and she decided to be my friend and I ended up in the drama club with other strange kids that spoke english.

I was an underachiever, though a well-behaved one, and I tended to score highly on the vocabulary part of standardized tests. I was a highly literate kid on my own and had graduated to adult novels by middle school, though I still read kid fic, too. I pretty much just suffered through school, even with my friends in Drama Club, because I knew real life began in college.

I am told I went to a classy nursery school. I don't remember this.

We moved when I was 5ish so I ended up going to kindergarten (half day, I think afternoon) and first through third grade at P.S. 6, which is, according to Google maps, still there though expanded; the neighborhood got urban-renewed and then renewed again. I have no clue about class size or the library or the teachers. All that is apparently compost. We moved between third and fourth grade to a new and country suburban centralized school buildings sort of joint to which everyone in the applicable townships had to be bussed. I believe this was where Miss Turgeon appeared. The desks did not have inkwell holes. I believe there was a library, but I don't remember it. Class size is a blank. We caught mumps and chickenpox (I think measles was earlier, but Mom wasn't exactly sure) from those kids. We moved again and the school had two classes in the same room, which meant picking up percents before I was supposed to, woe. For eighth grade we were bussed to the next town, which had a "junior high" arrangement. One was supposed to get the signature of all one's teachers after an absence, and I had a tonsillectomy (also signature-collecting was a scary procedure for me)... The assistant principal totally loathed me and the school had a bully and ... Thank God we moved again, and 8th grade was completed in a NYC school. (Dear Mrs. Bell taught us more Yiddish than Spanish and we got to listen to the World Series on somebody's smuggled transistor radio.)

Basically, I wasn't paying attention. :-) I always read ahead, and most of the time the teachers did not know.

Also, I'm not really Dutch.

I always went to public schools, but I went to a lot of them -- 8 different ones in the first 8 grades (we moved a lot). For first grade through sixth, at all schools I was in an age-segregated single-grade class. Some were urban, some suburban, some rural. All had gym of some kind. All had art. Some had lunch at your desk in your classroom, some had a cafeteria/lunch room. All had playgrounds for recess. All had libraries. All had choir and music classes. Then seventh grade, I attended a suburban public junior high, with 7 periods per day, each with a different teacher and class mates. There was phys. ed. and art and science and music at those, too. The next year we moved and I attended eighth grade at an urban K-8 school, one class room and one teacher all day, using the same books and studying the same material I had studied in the 5th grade in a suburban school. We had gym, including swimming (pool in the basement), art; for music, home ec and shop we were pulled out twice a week to those rooms, but no other science education.

I remember at one school (urban) reporting other kids for selling pot on the playground (I was 10, it was 1971). Another school (rural, 1970) still spanked with a wooden paddle, and 95% or more of the student body was released early twice a week to go to church classes that were basically across the parking lot of the public school. I missed a lot of school (one year I attended 4 different schools *and* was out for 6 weeks because my mother couldn't be bothered), and it always seemed weird that I kept learning the same things over and over instead of new things at different schools.

C. 1950, I started school at age 7 (effectively homeschooled till then) in a small town in west Texas, had part of 5th grade in a county seat town, then some years in a smaller county seat town.

It was all terribly boring. I kept trying to get expelled, or start fights at recess, never successfully, since my parents were connected with the school.

All too boring to describe. Except the libraries of the smaller county seat junior high, which had a special room behind beveled glass and old woodwork, that had been donated by some local rancher with a special collection which for some reason the librarian let me into. It had many volumes of EUREKA by Poe? Fascinating stuff.

Also the children's section of the public library was in a cupola on top of an old courthouse with a petunia bed around it. I spent a lot of time up there reading Oz books. Which I now think was quite worthwhile.

My first school was an all-French private primary school in Paris. I was in kindergarten -- maternelle. I remember that the school was named after René Goscinny, who wrote the Astérix & Obélix comic books, and that I would carpool there with a nice boy my age under the eye of our professional chauffeur dude. I vividly remember the back of that car. I also remember the time I was so tired of being around other people that I hid when the teachers called us in from recess and then came back out again to play marbles by myself, and that everyone was very mad when they realized I was still outside about twenty minutes later and came and got me. But I don't actually remember a whole lot about the classes except the times when I got to paint things, but I know it was well-funded and everything was pretty and good-quality. They were VERY big on art. Not a lot of books that I was allowed access to, though. I think I was one of the only kids there who could read already. I was bored a lot but everyone there was really nice to me and I never wanted to be rude by complaining.

After that was the equivalent of Grade 1 at a private primary school in Warsaw known to everybody as "the German school". Most of the classes were taught in German, with English and Polish mixed in. (So I was learning English at home and at parties/events/playdates with the other Canadian and American kids, and then Polish at school and at home from my nanny and at the homes of my local friends' families, and German at school.) There were a couple of schools that the embassy kids went to, and that was one of them, but since I was coming in partway through the school year, the others wouldn't take me. I was on the waiting list for the French school but wasn't likely to get in until the next year. The German school, whose actual name I forget because nobody around me ever called it that, was built so that it had one big central room where the primary kids all played together, and there was a kitchen in the back where one of the staff made up our lunches and snacks for us, and there was always juice and water and milk in the fridge. We did a lot of group activities intended to teach basic German vocabulary. We would spend some time doing that, and then some time divided up into smaller rooms around the central one, mostly by age but with exceptions for aptitude -- if you were new to German, you went in with the younger kids until you caught up, and if you were good with German, then they placed you with the kids whose classes you could best keep up with. Each of the mini-classrooms had their own collection of books but most of what I remember was oral teaching and oral tests. The German school was actually right next door to my house, so I would go home after school to report in to my nanny and have a snack, and then I would go back out and hop the ivy-covered fence to get back into the German school property so I could play with the kids who were still there for after-school daycare. Nobody was really happy about me hopping the fence but going around unaccompanied on the road was even worse and my nanny was usually busy looking after my hyperactive younger brother, so concessions were made.

After that was Grade 2 at a public elementary school here in Ottawa, which was a rude awakening. The schools I'd been to before were super flexible by necessity, moving kids around and between grades where appropriate, and all the kids were transplants and usually not there for more than a year or two, so social hierarchies were pretty loose and always in flux. I'm sure some bullying did happen anyway, but I was never bullied myself, no matter how weird I was, and I remember it as just having a very tolerant vibe -- everyone was coming from somewhere else, with a different background and different experiences, and it was all a hodge-podge and that was fine. Then I got dropped into Knoxdale with kids who had all come up in the same classes for four years, where everything was sameness, and I was the weird kid who spoke six languages and whose mom still dressed her and I was quiet and curious and weird. The classes were mostly divided by age, with a couple of split classes (Grade 2 and 3 combined, etc), but mine wasn't a split, and we had some kids who were in the English-only stream and some who were in the French Immersion program. We had some books in my classroom but I was reading at a much higher grade level by then, so they were pretty boring to me. The school had a small library, but nice, about the size of a converted classroom. I got along much better with the librarian than with my classroom teacher, and I would volunteer to make posters and things just so I could spend my recesses in the library instead of outside with the kids who picked on me. Everyone except the librarian did not like this idea, so it was a constant tug of war. The thing about French Immersion is that it meant we had French class, music class in French, and Math and Science classes in French, with only English Language Arts and Art in English. Despite kindergarten in French, my Grade 1 had all been in German and Polish, to trying to jump into Grade 2 Science and Maths in French was really hard for me. I would try to ask what the translation for certain terms were in German or Polish but of course my teacher had no idea, and that plus the not getting it meant more bullying from the other kids. It was a really good school as far as quality of equipment and general education goes, though. Just not made for kids like me.

Life continued like that through to Grade 6. Eventually I got over the language block on my own enough to catch up, but I'm not sure I would have been able to do that without a lot of extra help if I hadn't been as smart as I was or as good with languages. (And nobody thought to give me extra help, either.) I remember getting into trouble in Grade 6 because my book reports were always on books about ghosts or vampires or time travel or alternate dimensions or psychics, etc, and that partway through the year I was forbidden from doing book reports on those kinds of books anymore. I had to pick "normal" books, because my teacher was concerned for my mental health. (I wish I had had the means to tell her what was going on at home, and that my reading material should have been the least of her concerns in that department, but I was 11 and scared of authority figures and super introverted, so there was no chance.)

I grew up in southern Ontario. Elementary school (which got called "public" school because the names of the schools were "X Public School" as opposed to Y High School or Z Secondary School) was from kindergarten (half-days for 5yo) to grade 8. Usually there were between 28 and 31 kids in a class, and 1 to 1.5 classes per grade (a lot of new housing was built in the time I went to that school.

The principal didn't believe in special treatment of smart kids, and my brother and I were the only kids who accelerated to be in a higher grade than our agemates. In grades 1-4, there were itinerant music teacher and phys-ed teacher, but everything else was taught by the classroom teacher. Grades 5-8 had about half the day on "rotary", going to different teachers for their specialties (art, music, science, grammar, and gym. Starting in grade 5 (9 years old for me) gym was sex-segregated, with tshirt-and-shorts uniforms. French class started in grade 7, for 20 minutes a day, almost all oral-only. In grade 7 and 8, we went to another school on a bus on Friday mornings, for the girls to do sewing and cooking and the boys to do wood shop and metal shop.

We had a small paved area with kings-court (foursquare) and hopscotch markings, and a field bigger than two soccer fields, but no playground equipment. We had two fifteen minute recess periods every day, as well as free time outside when we came back from lunch. People who didn't have a parent at home could get special permission to eat lunch at school but almost everyone went home. The school library was built when I was in Grade 6, but I can't remember if there was a librarian and I don't think it was well stocked. We had a gymnatorium with a stage and a tile floor (I didn't see a wood-floor gym until I was at university). Everyone had a locker but you weren't allowed to use a lock. Our desks had inkwell holes. We always had individual textbooks but they weren't anywhere near new. The primary grade readers were "Surprises", "Treats and Treasures", and "Magic and Make-Believe". The school provided all pencils, workbooks, paper, and art supplies. Starting in Grade 5 we were allowed to use pens.

First 8 years counting Kindergarden or not?

Northern California public school, K-6 "elementary" and 7-9 "junior high."

In elementary school, usually 2 classrooms for each grade (different morning and afternoon sessions for kindergardeners), about 25 to 30 pupils and one teacher per classroom. One year, the numbers were funny enough that I was in a classroom that was half 2nd-graders and half 4th-graders, just one teacher giving each grade its own lessons, from what I can recall. Except during rainy-day recesses (or P.E.? not sure which), in which 2nd and 4th graders combined to play rainy-day recess games.

Elementary school textbooks were provided to us and left stored in our desks at night. Chairs were separate from desks, and the floors were heated. In addition to the classrooms, there was a big cafeteria / multi-purpose room (used in 2 shifts, grades 1-3 and grades 2-4). Milk was 6 cents for a half pint. A hot lunch was 35 cents.

There was a small school library in the corner of the cafeteria/multi-purpose room. Most classrooms had a few cubbyholes devoted to books from that library that you could take to your desk if you finished your work early. I don't remember if the "portable" classroom had cubbyholes or not, even though I spent at least one whole school year in it. In the regular classrooms, there were a bunch of cubbyholes where you could put your lunch (if you brought your lunch) until lunchtime, and a row of coathooks.

Curriculum included reading, math, art, health, California history, geography(?), physical education,and probably some other stuff I don't remember. I don't remember much science equipment in elementary school, but I suspect they taught us us some science besides health. There were occasional movies. Some teachers read fiction aloud to their classes right after lunch. Learning to play a musical instrument was optional (done in the multi-purpose room). Singing was not optional, and was done in the classroom.

Recesses and P.E. were outside unless it was raining or unless there was dancing. (I don't know for sure, but I suspect that one record player was shared among several schools, and we only got dancing on the days that our school had it.)

Every day started with the Pledge of Allegiance (Flag in the corner of every classroom), followed by a patriotic song. That bothers me now, but didn't bother me then.

In junior high, class size was similar, but there were a lot more classrooms, a lot more teachers, and a lot more kids. We changed classrooms and teachers for every subject. We each had a locker to store books in--I think books were still provided to us. Desks were one-piece chair+worksurface things, with a shelf under chair for temporary storage during class.

There was a big gymnasium divided into girls' and boys' halves by a sliding/folding divider, with showers and dressing rooms. There was a snack-bar where limited kinds of food could be bought, but no cafeteria. On rainy days, you either ate in the gym, or you ate hurriedly in a covered outside walkway and then went to the library. If I remember, the junior high library had about 6000 books--a big step up from the elementary library. And you could check out the books.

In junior high, the required subjects were English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and P.E. The science classes did have some equipment--I first saw a Van de Graaf generator in my 8th grade science class, and got to make a spectrometer out of a toilet tissue tube, a diffraction grating, and foil. I think we had six class periods per day, and we each got to take an elective for one period. I remember taking Spanish in 7th grade. I think 8th grade was the year I elected to be a library assistant. Some kids took Band or Orchestra as their elective. In addition, there were some after-school sports programs. I don't recall there being any art in junior high school, but it could be that I just didn't take an art elective. I did learn how to use the school's single lens reflex camera in ninth grade, when I took journalism. (Not sure if that was counted as English or as an elective.) In that class, we put together a tiny school newspaper and a school yearbook. I took it in 9th grade, but I think there were some 8th graders in that class, too.


I think my elementary school was probably one of the better ones in our city of 28,000 people. Its main distinguishing characteristic was that sixth graders raised money all year for a week-long bus trip in which we visited Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia. (I liked it.)

Grounds of the elementary school insluded BIG playing fields, quite a bit of blacktop painted for games, and some sports equipment (monkey bars, tetherball, etc).

I think my junior high school was probably the newest of the three junior high schools for my city, but I don't know for sure. I suspect it was second in prestige, but don't know for sure about that, either--just remember school J being disparaged, but school Z not so much. (We were school W.)

I hope that was interesting!

First I went to nursery school (half-days, I think) for two years, from 3-5 - that was mostly supervised play and crafts. We didn't get to play with clay nearly enough and when my brother went to a different school I was jealous because he got to finger-paint every day. We never did that. Then they gave me a test and let me "skip" kindergarten and start first grade at 5 and a half. I would probably have been one of the smallest anyway, but being with kids a year older made that even more blatant. There wasn't really any bullying, though.

For grades 1-12, I went to Philadelphia public schools from 1972-1984. My grade school ran from grades 1-7, and had 2.5 or 3 classes per grade. (The .5 was mixed classrooms, for example half second and half third-graders. I think they funneled the older kids who weren't doing well into those.) We had our own teacher for reading, writing, arithmetic singing songs and so on, and then had a different teacher come in for music and art and science. From 4th-6th grade they "cycled" us into reading and math classes by ability. In 4th and 5th grade, they took half the class each year (half went in 4th, the other half in 5th) into a social studies class, which can be best summarized by a song we sang for a show we put on from that class: "Anthropology, with an apology, we classify the races of man / One is Caucasoid and one is Mongoloid and one Negroid and / Please understand, the races of man / are one human race. ?Environment enforces different physical traits. / The differences are, a difference that makes / the world a much more interesting place." When I started there, the playground had monkey bars and a swing set without swings - for some reason, they only put swings up in summer, when a day camp was held there. Somewhere early in my schooling, there had been a car chase across the playground late one night which ended up with a police car crashed into the monkey bars, after which they were removed. We climbed up the swing-set instead - I can't imagine who thought that was a better idea than simply giving us swings. I don't think we had any science equipment in that school - maybe some little stuff the teacher could carry. The music teacher had a piano and xylophones, and there were optional after-school music classes on actual instruments. We had a nice big gym, and there was a cafeteria but most of us locals went home for lunch. The ones who stayed were a few kids whose mothers worked, and the kids who were bused in as part of a desegregation mandate - there were black kids from North Philly as well as white "Decatur" kids. No idea why they bused the latter in; maybe theirs was a poorer neighborhood. The black kids got to leave 15 minutes early for their bus ride home and the Decatur kids left half an hour early.

The school went up to 7th grade, but my year they let 7 of us go on to the much bigger junior high for that year; it was supposed to be better academically. It probably was, but for some reason I have very few memories of that school; I have many more of both grade school and high school (10th-12th grades).

From 3rg grade on we had a gifted program, first called AT (academically talented), later changed to MG (mentally gifted). For that we went to a different room one day a week and for to do things like make dodecahedons or create curves out of straight lines with thread (popular in the 1970s, but instead of wrapping the thread around nails, we sewed it through felt backed with oaktag - remember oaktag? I don't even know if that's how you spell it. I mean the stuff like manila file folders. And what do those have to do with Manila, anyway?). We also did small independent study projects and got taken to the Franklin Institute science museum for a series of classes there. And we had a computer terminal and got to do BASIC programming, which was not common in grade school in 1976! In junior high, they bused us to a different school, where we got classes - we could choose each semester from Computer Science, Photography, Fine Arts, Communications and Environmental Science.

I mentioned busing for desegregation earlier; that had been a hot issue in Philadelphia; I *think* they were able to get away with doing voluntary instead of forced busing. We had one black kid int he class in 2nd grade, several more from 3rd grade on. I'm still in contact with a couple of those on FB, and they seem to think the grade school was a good experience, or at least got them out of bad experiences in their original school. At least one of those kids was in the Gifted class. Most of our earliest teachers were old ladies; there were three young black women teachers who were liked much better. (No younger white women except the art/science/music teachers) One of those three was really an extraordinary person, I realize now. I didn't have her, but the ones who did loved her. I'm in contact with her now on FB as well; somehow she remembered and friended me, even though I wasn't in her class. We had a couple of old men teachers in grades 5-6 and two young men (who probably got into teaching to avoid Vietnam) who were also much-liked.

Also, you can gauge how Jewish the school and neighborhood were by the fact that it was named Solomon Solis-Cohen Elementary (Solis-Cohen was a Jewish doctor and scholar), yet we sang Christmas songs and made Easter baskets in school.

I went to kindergarten to the first half of sixth grade at a little public school in the western suburbs of Montreal. It had somewhere around 300 students at the time I went there; it's now closed for lack of attendance.

My stepfather is a Francophone, my mother is an Anglophone; Quebec had recently introduced legislation that only children whose parents were anglophones, or who had received most of their previous schooling in English, could go to English schools. It was only after some considerable finagling that I was admitted to an English school.

I think the most significant thing about the school was the small size. The principal knew everyone's name and I saw her frequently in the halls. Students who were having birthdays had their names up on a banner in the halls (which I was very jealous of, having a July birthday). It really felt as if everyone knew everyone else.

The schools have been secularized since, but in the 80s, English schools were Protestant and French schools were Catholic. We had the occasional Bible story in grade 6, but on the whole our ethics classes (we did have ethics classes!) were rather secular and humanist. I remember once there were riots in Montreal after a hockey game, and we had to spend the whole period writing an essay about why that was wrong.

In 4th-5th grade we had French Immersion. Better students (me included) continued French Immersion in 6th.

I remember that we had tons of class trips, and to relatively distant places -- the Morgan Arboretum, Upper Canada, camping in the Laurentians. I think we went to the Biodome. We were going to have a class trip to Quebec City at the end of grade 6, but I moved to Texas just before then. (I didn't get to go on the trip to see Phantom of the Opera; my family didn't have the money. I have a twin, so every expense was doubled.)

In 6th grade my teacher read the class "A Wrinkle In Time," which was marvelous; we talked about tesseracts.

In grade 1 I moved to France. I spent half a year at a very rural public school (the principal lived next door; once she gave me a ride to school. It was her, me, my twin, and her enormous German Shepherd in an itty bitty car.) I think there were two rooms, one for upper grades and one for lower grades. After that I went to a Catholic school in town for a year. I have bad and blurry memories of both, because it was a hard adaptation to being taught in French, and it was around this time that my parents figured out I needed glasses; I do remember that it was a much more lecture-centered model of teaching. We had very little in the way of physical education, and nothing of music or art.


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