We were having a discussion at dinner last night about 2nd grade and I thought I’d share a few stories that I was compelled to share with my son’s 2nd Grade Teacher.
For me, 2nd grade is when everything started to go wrong. I was a 7-year-old student at Thomas Alva Edison Elementary School in South Bend, Indiana. So was my friend, Reggie Bain. Reggie and I had known each other since we were 2 years old and we were, as they say, “thick as thieves”. All I can say is: though the antics of the boys in the Captain Underpants books seem to be extremely naughty and exaggerated, they hit uncomfortably close to home.
Our 2nd grade teacher, Miss Rhorda, was in her first year of teaching, and, as it turns out, also in her last year of teaching. She was completely out of her depth, especially when it came to Reggie and me. For example, she had two cardboard “keys”, one pink and one blue, near the classroom door above the pencil sharpener. This was to prevent more than one girl and boy from leaving the classroom to go to the bathroom at any one time. What Reggie and I would do is this: Reggie would raise his hand and ask to go to the bathroom. He would take the blue key and leave. I would get up to sharpen my pencil, and Reggie would slip the key under the door. I would then wave the key at Miss Rhorda and ask to go to the bathroom. Hey, presto, Reggie and I would be on the loose. One of the things we would do while roaming the halls is play what we called “hockey” in the bathroom using a rock and a urinal. This was great fun while it lasted, but eventually the principal, Mr. Henningfield, heard the commotion and caught us wet-footed. That was back in the day when principals were encouraged to paddle students with large pieces of lumber, which Mr. Henningfield did, with gusto (this explains my life-long fear of principals). I can still hear the whoosh and whack of that paddle … and the sound of Reggie crying; it’s always worse to go last.
One thing Reggie and I did, which we thought was hilarious, was steal boxes of crayons from the classroom supply cabinet. Not just a few boxes, either. We stole ALL of the boxes, a few boxes at a time, over the course of the school year. We hid them in our desks. We hid them in our lockers. We hid them in our pants. We brought them home, slowly, secretly, box by box. I can remember I had a reversible raincoat with pockets on the inside and pockets on the outside and on the last day of school, sometime in June, 1971, I had to jam the last of the crayon boxes into those pockets after we cleaned-out our desks. I had to waddle home in the rain, with those bulging raincoat pockets, fearful of being caught at every step. I, personally, amassed a crayon fortune of 150 boxes by the end of 2nd grade. It’s surprising that my mother had no idea where all those boxes of crayons came from, but it’s even more remarkable that Miss Rhorda had no idea how the crayons had disappeared, either. That was the last we ever heard of Miss Rhorda.
The point of my confession was this: because of my notoriously bad 2nd grade behavior, I was expecting Éamon to be at his worst this year. Though I failed to give his teacher fair warning, I was absolutely dreading this year and watching for signs that Éamon was going to cause her some grief. I’ve been really, really rooting for her this year and she has not disappointed me. She have been the best thing for Éamo — he’s thriving and really enjoying school and this is because of her infinite patience and abilities as a teacher. We are very grateful that he is in her class and not playing hockey in the bathrooms. Still, I warned her to keep an eye on her crayons.
P.S. Where is Reggie now? Except for 4th, 5th and 6th grades, when I lived across town, Reggie and I ended up attending the same elementary school, middle school, high school and college. Dr. Reginald Bain is now a professor of music theory at the University of South Carolina and he will not only back-up these stories, but augment them as well. I guess, in his case, the paddling worked.