Continue the delusions of elementary glory

Kristine Gill

At my elementary school we had “split classes,” which were made up of half one grade and half another grade of students. I was in the third/fourth grade split as both a third- and fourth-grader, and it was great.

We were the privileged students. We were smart and had apparently proved we could work diligently on our own while our teacher taught the other group of students in the class. We could handle multiplication, and we were prepared to take on the challenge of division. We were mature enough to read more risqué books and patient enough to devote hours to an elaborate art project.

We told ourselves that we had been handpicked, and we had been, but I’m sure the handpicking scenario going on in my third grade brain was far more glorious than the teacher’s lounge setting where women itching to tear down classroom decorations and start summer break pointed to a list of names and made rash decisions.

“Now what about this Kristine Gill,” said Teacher One, pointing to a fabulous yearbook picture of me with long hair and not enough teeth.

“Oh Miss Gill? She’s quite phenomenal. Did you see her drawing of the one-eyed monster she did this year? It was extremely accurate. And did you hear she counted all the way to 111 when she was in kindergarten?” said Teacher Two.

“Surely her work ethic and positively sweet demeanor warrant a top spot in next year’s split class!” said Teacher Three.

And as a resounding “yes” echoed through hallways of Dale R. Rice Elementary School, those third-grade teachers who weren’t lucky enough to teach the split glumly crossed my name off of their lists.

I think it’s safe to say every third-grader who came into the split that year was silently, if not shamelessly, reveling in this delusional glory. Parts of our delusions were true though. We could all tear through the multiplication times table races just like we tore through one of our first chapter books, Charlotte’s Web.

We were the kind of kids who would cry if we forgot to do our homework or missed the bus. We understood the complex responsibilities and sacrifices that came with being the teacher’s pet and knew cheating was the unspoken eighth deadly sin. In a lot of ways we were wimps, but we were also damn smart. There were some duds too — kids who by some act of God had slipped past the teachers on that restless day before summer vacation and were somehow allowed to learn with us. So I won’t say that we were all stars.

As high school students years later, we returned to the elementary schools in our city to mentor students through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. We found split classes didn’t exist anymore. And while the students who were forced to stay after school to finish their homework and get some extra help from high school mentors weren’t the cream of the crop, I still can’t recall knowing a fellow third-grader who counted on his fingers or willingly gave up the answers on his math worksheet.

It was truly disheartening. I know smart kids still exist, and that third grade isn’t the greatest indication of future success, but I’m worried. My roommate and fellow third/fourth grade split classmate have decided the one thing we all had in common back then was good parents. Parents who stressed about our homework and made sure it was done before dinner. Dads who helped us memorize the order of the planets and moms who helped us collect ourselves when the complexities of grammar and our government were too much to handle.

So let’s be good parents. Let’s make sure our kids’ homework gets done and that they pick out their clothes before bed. Let’s make sure they eat their breakfast, pack their backpacks, have a good lunch, and remember their library books and their gym shoes. Let’s instill a sense of glory, however delusional, in their little minds so they go to school each day with a sense of pride that will carry over into junior high and beyond.

I urge everyone to adopt the mentality of my roommate and take the following comment of hers to heart.

“There’s no way I’ll let my kid be stupid.”

There is no way, children, no way.

Kristine Gill is a newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected] kent.edu.