Prompt #1: The Writing on Learning Exchange: Learning About School

nkuVRWeWelcome to the Writing on Learning Exchange!  Every week or two I will publish a prompt that is meant to get us thinking and writing about some aspect of our learning and/or teaching experience.  Whether you are a teacher, a learner, a parent or just a citizen who cares about the growth and development of other citizens, I hope you will find some inspiration here.

Some guidelines:

  • Respond to the prompt in whatever way you wish.  It is meant to be a springboard, not a cage.  If the question or topic makes you think about something that seems totally unrelated, follow that thought and see where it takes you.  No wrong answers.
  • You could write a post on your own blog, in which case I hope you will link back to the prompt post, and also leave a link to your response in the prompt post’s comments.  (This is a great way to find some more readers – or maybe it will be the impetus you need to finally start that blog you’ve been sitting on?)
  • You could just leave a comment responding to the prompt.
  • Or you could write about the subject privately, for your own edification – if you do that, I hope you’ll at least leave a comment saying that you wrote about it, and telling us how the writing went.
  • I hope you will have time to read and comment on some of the responses of others. However, if you just want to write a response and move on, or just use the prompt as a basis for your personal internal reflection, that is totally fine.

So here’s the first prompt: What are your first memories of going to school? 

Some details to consider (or ignore, as you see fit):

  • Where and when did you begin school?  How old were you?
  • Do you remember having any preconceptions about school before you began? Were there people around you (older siblings, older friends, adults…) who gave you information about school that shaped your impression of it before  you started?
  • What happened on your first day? What do you remember about the physical surroundings, the teachers, the other students, the activities?
  • If you don’t remember the very first days of school, do you remember any particular school experiences from your very early school years?

Just grab your first thoughts and impressions and go – don’t overthink!  And please share if you feel you can.  I look forward to hearing how this goes for you.

Thanks to Gayla Trail at You Grow Girl, whose creative writing club for gardeners, the Grow Write Guild, inspired the Writing on Learning Exchange.

Image by John Boyer

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21 responses

  1. This is a great start for this writing adventure/project you are leading us on. I am already percolating about the topic and will get something posted but probably not until next week.

  2. I remember kindergarten. I was the oldest, and I had a twin sister, so we started school together. We must have played together there too, but I think we were curious about the other kids. I don’t remember playing just with her. We went to kindergarten in ‘the old red schoolhouse’ a short drive from our house in the country, just off the highway and across from the cemetery. The schoolhouse, a very old wooden building, doubled as the church and Sunday school on weekends, so I spent a lot of time there.

    I have a vague, watery memory of proudly showing a drawing with my name and a message crudely lettered on it to my mum, who looked worried. I had written some of the letters backwards, and for a time I guess there was a concern that I might be dyslexic. I don’t remember seeing any doctors about it, though.

    Actually, I had a lot of problems with writing. I have slow hands, I think. You should see me type – I am strictly a ‘pointer finger’ kind of typist. I never, ever got the hang of cursive, and as soon as they stopped making us learn it, I reverted to printing and never went back. Perhaps it has something to do with being left-handed. I’m very aware of it now because my nephew, now six, has a lot of motor skill issues and doesn’t like writing.

    The kindergarten room had white walls, and I remember coloured letters on the walls and maybe mats for laying on.

    My elementary school was a small brick building a little further from my home and I took the bus there. I don’t really remember classes at all. I remember lunch. I remember hearing Queen for the first time. “Another One Bites the Dust.” It was different from anything I’d ever experienced before. I remember recess. I remember sneezing every time I walked out with the sun in my eyes. I remember swing sets. I remember Rhonda, who was such an outcast with her shabby clothes and thin red hair, and how she loved to sing “Delta Dawn” and “Country Roads”. I remember Tamara who grew so big so fast – we played ‘Lassie’ together, and she was always Lassie.

    I loved my teachers. I had a crush on our principal, and was crushed when he left. I seem to remember saying goodbye on a rainy day. Before that, he gave me a tape recorder as a prize for something – I don’t remember what. I remember winning a drawing prize for ‘Best Nature Drawing’ – I had drawn a horse, and in my opinion not a good one at that. I guess I felt, looking back on it, that these prizes were pretty arbitrary…

    • This is so evocative – it brings back my own memories of struggling with forming letters, and of the brick elementary school I attended after the little wooden primary school next door was torn down…

  3. Pingback: My first school memory | Sweetness and Joy

  4. What are your first memories of going to school?

    This first thing that came to mind was when I was in Kindergarten. As I started to go back in time other memories started to flood in, but I think I will write about my first initial thought.

    I remember playing outside. Running and screaming like a mad women. I was having fun playing multiple games with the other kids. I remember running around the jungle gym and sliding down the biggest slide in the world; or so I thought at the time. I was moving so quickly, so agile for my age….And then I remember the monkey bars. I remember being too small to reach on my own, so a few of my friends helped me up. I remember holding tight onto the yellow bar, just hanging there feeling my weight. I used all my strength and made it to the next bar; I was excited. I was actually doing it! I remember getting to the middle and feeling my arms start to shake…I couldn’t hold on, but I didn’t want to fall 100 million feet down to the ground; or so at the time it seemed. I remember starting to feel scared and claustrophobic when other kids started swinging next to me. I remember the moment I lost my grip and hit the ground on my side. I then remember other kids falling on top of me. After that it became a blur…Maybe from my eyes filling up with tears.

    I remember my grandma being there. She was telling me everything was going to be okay. I was sitting on a wooden bench as she helped me cradle my arm. I was crying. I remember looking around and not understanding what was happening. Why was I sitting on the bench? What was going to happen to me? Why couldn’t I feel my arm anymore? I remember sitting there for what felt like an eternity until I heard a strange noise. What was that noise?

    I remember my grandma trying to help me up slowly. She was telling me to be careful. I remember feeling pain. Oh the pain. I remember getting my hand stuck in the bench and my grandma had to help me get it out. I remember walking down an outside hallway towards the sidewalk. I remember the sirens were so loud as I saw a big red truck. I was scared. They were helping me inside. I don’t remember much after that moment, but I know I was really scared. I didn’t know what was happening.

    I remember waking up with my left arm being very heavy and hurting. My mom said I was going to be okay and my older brother was asking me a lot of questions. I remember looking down and seeing for the first time this strange thing on my arm. What was it? Why did I have to wear this blue neck strap with it? I remember going back to school and still being confused as to what happened. I remember not being allowed on the jungle gym anymore. I played by myself in the sandbox.

    I remember going to the doctors. My mom and brother were with me. I was excited. My mom told me that this thing was coming off! I was happy because it smelt bad and it made my arm itchy sometimes. I remember going into the cold cold room. The doctor was their with another lady. I was scared. I saw a blade. It was round and circular. It looked scary. I remember thinking he was going to cut me with it and I remember I started to cry and hung onto my mommy.

    I remember the loud noise, the horrible smell, me holding my mom tight and her telling me it was okay. Where was my brother? I remember walking out of the room and standing next to my mom as she talked to some lady at a counter. I remember looking down at my arm and it looking different. It felt different. I was happy. My arm, it felt so light…As light as a feather! I remember moving it up and down and not being able to understand. I remember trying to tell my older brother and him being intrigued. I remember the lady at the counter smiling at me as I told her what my arm felt like. She smiled.

    This was a moment in my life where I fell off the monkey bars at school and broke my arm. It is an experience that I will never forget.

    M.

    • This is so vivid! There must be a reason that our memories of pain and injury are always so strong. Thanks so much for sharing…this really brought me back to those early moments of learning about suffering!

  5. I don’t remember a lot of details, but I remember my overall impression of kindergarten, which was rather negative. (I’m a 26-year-old American female, for context). I went to preschool but don’t remember it.

    I started kindergarten at 5, but we moved halfway through the year, so I don’t really remember the first months. What I do remember is vague: the teacher had a large pet snake in the classroom; the playground had several tire swings; we had a cool play area that was lofted. I don’t remember anything academic, ha ha. But I do remember a little more about the time I spent in kindergarten at the elementary school I attended through fifth grade.

    My teacher was sweet and I liked her, but I intensely disliked the other kids. I was “intellectually advanced” for my age; a very early reader. I really didn’t start feeling challenged in school until about 10th grade. I found the other kids really boring and wasn’t interested in their games. I remember spending a lot of time reading off by myself, but mostly I remember getting in trouble, ha ha.

    My mother, herself an elementary school teacher but never mine, has always said that I was extremely eager to go to school when I was little, and I initially looked forward to it. But, she said, I quickly became very bored, which led to a lot of acting out. In fact, that’s what I most remember about elementary school: being sent to the principal’s office, having “silent lunch” (where you had to sit quietly at a table at the front of the cafeteria, without being with your friends), and occasionally getting in fights and then being punished. (I missed several lessons in writing cursive letters because I was “acting out,” and therefore never really learned about a third of the cursive alphabet, which just makes my handwriting more atrocious.) I calmed down in middle school, save for an incident in ninth grade that landed me in in-school detention for three days. But it gave me time to read “Battlefield Earth,” and I’m not really sure if that’s a positive or a negative. So even though I loved learning and was curious about everything, I associated school with punishment, with adults not liking my behavior, and with my peers being stupid. Growing up I think that’s really stuck with me. I don’t like arbitrary authority, and I don’t respect someone just for being older or being in a superior position to me. I love to learn and ask questions, and I believe education is very important. But I also have a “teacher leave them kids alone” sort of attitude and have always been very distrustful (and downright rude) to teachers. (Oh god you should have seen me in college. I was so mean. Some teachers loved that, because I didn’t swallow stuff easily; I argued and debated and challenged. Obviously, a lot of teachers hated that too.)

    Anyway, early days. I did like my teacher, Mrs. Nixon, but Mom said I gave her fits. “After two days,” my mom always says, “she called me in for a conference. She said, ‘Miss Thompson, do you realize that K can read?’ My mom said yes, she knew that. Mrs. Nixon said, ‘Well, the other kids can’t read yet, so there’s a bit of a disconnect.’ My mom said, ‘That’s your problem now. You got to handle her.’”

    So I remember being placed in an advanced reading group, and later in an advanced math group, where we did algebra. The advanced reading group was really great, as I got to read chapter books with the fifth graders. I also got to take a fun class where we did logic puzzles, riddles, and word problems, stuff like that, for critical thinking. That helped a lot and kept me out of some trouble. But mostly I remember being bored and acting out, a lot.

    A couple of years ago, a girl I went to school with sent me a message on Facebook. We weren’t ever that close, so I was surprised to get a private message from her, and even more surprised by what she said. I think she had drug problems in high school, and the message read like she was doing one of those twelve-step programs, where one of the steps is apologizing for people they’ve wronged. I don’t outright remember the incident, but it sounds like me:

    The girl wrote that one day in kindergarten we were standing in line in the hallway, waiting to go to the buses. It was a rainy day, and lots of kids had boots, umbrellas, or slickers. As we waited, a tour group of the school board, all adults in suits and ties, came tramping by, “observing us”. Well, my friend, A, was playing with her umbrella, swinging it around. For some reason, the teacher thought I was the one swinging the umbrella around and she told me to stop. I frankly told her that I was not misbehaving and did not appreciate her calling me out for something I didn’t do. Naturally, the teacher couldn’t let that slide, since the school board was there watching. She gave me one more chance to apologize, and I guess I mouthed off at her, because pretty soon I was at the principal’s office waiting for my mother to pick me up.

    My friend A wrote, “I always felt bad for not sticking up for you and admitting that I was playing around. I let you take the blame. And I’m sorry.”

    I wrote her back and said, “I forgive you. I’ve always hated authority anyway.”

    So those are my first long, windy thoughts. Other incidents of elementary school stick out in my mind: dissecting owl pellets in fourth grade science was amazing. I broke my wrist during recess, but the nurse thought it was fine and wouldn’t let me go home. The next day I showed her my cast, and also gave her the middle finger, so I was sent home. But still, it really was broken, what a moron, I told her. Mrs. Carson let me take spelling tests early, on Mondays, so I could spent the Friday spelling test period reading. I got my first F on a math test in fourth grade. (Fourth grade was a really weird year; all of the above happened in fourth grade, actually.) I called Katie a bitch in fifth grade. She told our teacher, Mrs. Mahone, who always talked like she was stoned, and she just dully said, “K, don’t call people bitches.” Oh, and in fifth grade I took the door off the girl’s bathroom stall, just to see how the hinges worked. Got sent home for that too. I wasn’t being perverted, I just wanted to know how the hinges locked together.

  6. I don’t remember a lot of details, but I remember my overall impression of kindergarten, which was rather negative. (I’m a 26-year-old American female, for context). I went to preschool but don’t remember it.

    I started kindergarten at 5, but we moved halfway through the year, so I don’t really remember the first months. What I do remember is vague: the teacher had a large pet snake in the classroom; the playground had several tire swings; we had a cool play area that was lofted. I don’t remember anything academic, ha ha. But I do remember a little more about the time I spent in kindergarten at the elementary school I attended through fifth grade.

    My teacher was sweet and I liked her, but I intensely disliked the other kids. I was “intellectually advanced” for my age; a very early reader. I really didn’t start feeling challenged in school until about 10th grade. I found the other kids really boring and wasn’t interested in their games. I remember spending a lot of time reading off by myself, but mostly I remember getting in trouble, ha ha.

    My mother, herself an elementary school teacher but never mine, has always said that I was extremely eager to go to school when I was little, and I initially looked forward to it. But, she said, I quickly became very bored, which led to a lot of acting out. In fact, that’s what I most remember about elementary school: being sent to the principal’s office, having “silent lunch” (where you had to sit quietly at a table at the front of the cafeteria, without being with your friends), and occasionally getting in fights and then being punished. (I missed several lessons in writing cursive letters because I was “acting out,” and therefore never really learned about a third of the cursive alphabet, which just makes my handwriting more atrocious.) I calmed down in middle school, save for an incident in ninth grade that landed me in in-school detention for three days. But it gave me time to read “Battlefield Earth,” and I’m not really sure if that’s a positive or a negative. So even though I loved learning and was curious about everything, I associated school with punishment, with adults not liking my behavior, and with my peers being stupid. Growing up I think that’s really stuck with me. I don’t like arbitrary authority, and I don’t respect someone just for being older or being in a superior position to me. I love to learn and ask questions, and I believe education is very important. But I also have a “teacher leave them kids alone” sort of attitude and have always been very distrustful (and downright rude) to teachers. (Oh god you should have seen me in college. I was so mean. Some teachers loved that, because I didn’t swallow stuff easily; I argued and debated and challenged. Obviously, a lot of teachers hated that too.)

    Anyway, early days. I did like my teacher, Mrs. Nixon, but Mom said I gave her fits. “After two days,” my mom always says, “she called me in for a conference. She said, ‘Miss Thompson, do you realize that K can read?’ My mom said yes, she knew that. Mrs. Nixon said, ‘Well, the other kids can’t read yet, so there’s a bit of a disconnect.’ My mom said, ‘That’s your problem now. You got to handle her.’”

    So I remember being placed in an advanced reading group, and later in an advanced math group, where we did algebra. The advanced reading group was really great, as I got to read chapter books with the fifth graders. I also got to take a fun class where we did logic puzzles, riddles, and word problems, stuff like that, for critical thinking. That helped a lot and kept me out of some trouble. But mostly I remember being bored and acting out, a lot.

    A couple of years ago, a girl I went to school with sent me a message on Facebook. We weren’t ever that close, so I was surprised to get a private message from her, and even more surprised by what she said. I think she had drug problems in high school, and the message read like she was doing one of those twelve-step programs, where one of the steps is apologizing for people they’ve wronged. I don’t outright remember the incident, but it sounds like me:

    The girl wrote that one day in kindergarten we were standing in line in the hallway, waiting to go to the buses. It was a rainy day, and lots of kids had boots, umbrellas, or slickers. As we waited, a tour group of the school board, all adults in suits and ties, came tramping by, “observing us”. Well, my friend, A, was playing with her umbrella, swinging it around. For some reason, the teacher thought I was the one swinging the umbrella around and she told me to stop. I frankly told her that I was not misbehaving and did not appreciate her calling me out for something I didn’t do. Naturally, the teacher couldn’t let that slide, since the school board was there watching. She gave me one more chance to apologize, and I guess I mouthed off at her, because pretty soon I was at the principal’s office waiting for my mother to pick me up.

    My friend A wrote, “I always felt bad for not sticking up for you and admitting that I was playing around. I let you take the blame. And I’m sorry.”

    I wrote her back and said, “I forgive you. I’ve always hated authority anyway.”

    So those are my first long, windy thoughts. Other incidents of elementary school stick out in my mind: dissecting owl pellets in fourth grade science was amazing. I broke my wrist during recess, but the nurse thought it was fine and wouldn’t let me go home. The next day I showed her my cast, and also gave her the middle finger, so I was sent home. But still, it really was broken, what a moron, I told her. Mrs. Carson let me take spelling tests early, on Mondays, so I could spent the Friday spelling test period reading. I got my first F on a math test in fourth grade. (Fourth grade was a really weird year; all of the above happened in fourth grade, actually.) I called Katie a bitch in fifth grade. She told our teacher, Mrs. Mahone, who always talked like she was stoned, and she just dully said, “K, don’t call people bitches.” Oh, and in fifth grade I took the door off the girl’s bathroom stall, just to see how the hinges worked. Got sent home for that too. I wasn’t being perverted, I just wanted to know how the hinges locked together.

    • PW: fascinating. It strikes me as odd that you weren’t advanced a grade: this is what happened to me when my kindergarten teacher discovered I could read. It turned out, accidentally, to be the best thing that could have happened; I ended up spending the rest of elementary school with a group of friends who were as odd and as advanced as I was. So much of our childhood experience, good or bad, comes down to dumb luck…

      • I hadn’t really thought of it before, but I don’t think I know anyone who was advanced a grade. It was really frowned on in our school system. I knew plenty of kids who had been held back a grade, but never knew anyone who was pushed ahead. Sounds like the typical American school: all punishment, no reward.

        My mother, who teaches fourth grade, has a child right now who she claims is the smartest she’s ever taught. “He’s already read everything. He finishes my tests in ten minutes. He makes straight A’s,” she told me. Finally she hit on the solution: She has him design book studies. Book studies are worksheets and projects associated with a particular chapter book, so after each chapter you read, you’d have maybe a vocabulary lesson, or a writing prompt, or something. “After 16 years, I finally figured it out, K,” she told me the other day. “Have the kids design the coursework! He’s already made THREE of them, and they’re excellent!”

  7. Pingback: Kindergarten Memories of an Owl Coin Purse and a Blue-Eyed Crush | Furthest Sense

  8. I remember being in a big classroom, it was like a double classroom and there was the floor area and the tables area but in the floor area there was one ‘naughty’ table. All I really remember from my first year of school is that table, I spent a lot of time there for constantly talking but I didn’t care (I have no idea why though). I also remember my teacher she had orange hair and a white badger stripe, she was awesome and we went to a camp at her house, and my dad came. He was late, I think he drove up after work, where as we took a bus. He brought packets of that multi coloured popcorn and I thought it was an awesome treat! And in the morning I got the record for most number of slices of toast eaten on school camp, I only ate 9 slices but I didn’t have recess and I just wanted to beat my brother who had held the record at 8. I was SO full!

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