1. What was/is your favorite subject in school? Why?
It was definitely art. It allowed me to be creative without having to adhere to rules of syntax. It also let me lose myself in the medium for even that finite time, something important for a troubled kid. Anyone who creates with their hands will know what I’m talking about; it’s wonderful.
2. Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
It would have to be David Scherer, who taught my fourth grade class at Wescott Elementary in Northbrook, IL. He had brown hair and a beard, and kind eyes. My home life was violent and dismal with my father, and I carried my frustration and anger to school. I acted out Mr. Scherer’s class as I did in all my classes, but with him I’d met my match. A telling memory I have is about a day he told me to go to the Principal’s office. I refused and sat stubbornly at my desk. Well, Mr. Scherer grabbed onto the desk and pulled it — and me — down the hallway toward the Principal’s office! Looking back, I wonder if he just did that in terrific humor, or if I pissed him off so much he didn’t know what else to do!
We had big cardboard study carrols to use in the classroom, letting us make cubicles out of our desks (early indoctrination into a Dilbert society! My God!!). Mr. Scherer set up the carrols like a gameshow set and held spelling contests, too. It was in his class that I learned to spell psychology; we all learned to spell it by year’s end. Do kids still learn to spell psychology in fourth grade?
He also was the person responsible for me finishing the required half-mile track for the President’s Physical Fitness Program. I was as far from athletic as a kid could be, and I hated gym class. Mr. Scherer stayed after school with me one day and we went around that half-mile track together, alternately walking ten steps and jogging ten steps until we had finished. I still am not athletic, but that memory really stays with me.
And, yes, I was hopelessly in love with him. In truth, he was the first positive male role model I ever had. He left teaching to work at a bank, and for a while we kept in touch by phone. His leaving the education field was a loss for children, especially those without a niche of their own.
3. What is your favorite memory of school?
Second to all those I listed above, it would have to be the times I snuck out of lunch period and went to eat lunch with Joseph Zulawski, my seventh-grade art teacher at John H. Springman Junior High in Glenview, IL. I was labelled a behavioral problem and bussed to that school to participate in that school’s special ed classes. I was a very bright girl, and bored silly with what they tried to pass off as lessons. The one place I found myself was in the arts arts, both visual and music. We’d sit and eat and just talk as friends. He was another good man God saw fit to put in my life.
When I graduated from eighth grade, Mr. Zulawski gave me a box of treasures: a box of charcoals, an art gum eraser, a timer…Just an odd assortment of little things, but ones I treasure. I don’t do charcoal drawings to speak of, but I still have that worn little grey cardboard box of charcoal sticks. Mr. Z and I corresponded for a while after I moved to Ohio, but we lost touch. He was a good man.
4. What was your favorite recess game?
Reading. I hated recess. I wasn’t a popular kid, and didn’t play kickball, hopscotch and all that. I was pretty much self-entertaining, and I still am. Not that I didn’t want to be with people, and not that I don’t enjoy being around people now, no. I just play well by myself. 🙂
5. What did you hate most about school?
I think the darkest time school-wise was junior high. In retrospect, I realize I was clinically depressed as a pre-teen and teenager. Back in those days, I went to a counselor, but they just didn’t give kids anti-depressants. I wonder how differently my life would have turned out had I had those amazing, helpful medications back then instead of decades later.
As I said, I was sent to a neighboring town for school because they had a special ed program. The stigma attached to any kids in those classes was longstanding. That, combined with my then-combative nature and lashing out, made school life difficult. Until I was “mainstreamed” into the “normal” classes there, my lessons were comprised of readings, followed by questions and sometimes puzzles, from workbooks so simplistic it was embarrassing. I would get weeks worth of lessons done in an afternoon, then have time to kill. Nothing’s worse than an emotionally hurting, but intelligent child who has run out of things with which to occupy her time. I got in trouble a lot, but Mr. Zulawski was my saving grace and sanity during that time. If you’re out there, Mr. Z, I love you.