Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Tales From an Eighth Grade Somebody

Okay, so welcome to another edition of WHO AM I WEDNESDAY, and I thought that for this week, I would make this post "back to school" themed.

So, yes.  This diary entry will be all about some memory from my school years.  In fact, I'm going to be talking about a particular grade from my school years that really sort of shaped the way that I looked at things.

This is my diary post - "Tales From an Eighth Grade Somebody".

September 3, 2014

For some reason, I'm beginning to feel really old.

I can't believe that it has been twenty years since I began my eighth grade year.  It doesn't seem like it's been that long.  I mean, it was just yesterday that I was heading inside of my eighth grade classroom in my New Balance sneakers, husky sized jeans, and an Anaheim Mighty Ducks baseball cap on top of my head.

And, yes.  I was a husky kid.  Hell, I'm a husky adult.  That much hasn't changed.

But I would have to say that the eighth grade was a year of real transition.  The 1994/1995 school year was such that I went through some great changes, both physically and emotionally.

I'll spare you the descriptions of my physical changes though.  Nobody needs to hear the full description of the summer that puberty gave me a bitch slap into young adulthood.

But, I will say that looking back on eighth grade, it was a rather interesting year. 

First of all, I found myself even surprised that I was finishing off the year at the elementary school where I had spent the previous eight and a quarter years (I transferred from another school during my kindergarten year), because after the living, breathing hell that was seventh grade, my parents had seriously considered switching me out of school to attend a different one.

Seventh grade was a year in which I was literally my own island in a group of kids.  None of the kids in my class really liked me, and with a couple of exceptions, I really didn't like many of them either.  It was the year in which I probably went home feeling depressed each and every day, and it was a year in which despite my teacher's best efforts to incorporate me more into the classroom activities, I still found myself to be a real outsider.  The majority of the kids I did like were in the other class, and I really struggled with the school curriculum a lot.

Translation:  Seventh grade algebra sucked.

It also didn't help matters much that in seventh grade, four of the meanest bullies all happened to be in the same class as I was.  It was nine and a half months of pure torture. 

I understood why my parents wanted me to switch schools that year.  Hell, I was ready to get out of there.  Do you want to know why I couldn't?

School zoning.

You see, I lived down the street from my elementary school.  All other elementary schools in the area were at least twelve to fourteen blocks away - none of which were in my assigned district.  Oh, sure, my parents could have relocated to another neighbourhood, or fought to have me reinstated at a different school, but in the end, there was not much that could be done.  I was forced to stay at a school that I really didn't like very much for my final year of elementary school.

Worst assigned teacher for that year was the seventh grade gym teacher that kicked me out of the class for standing up for myself.  Maybe doing it in the middle of class wasn't the best idea, but hey, I hated gym class anyway.  I didn't really care.

Confession:  I threw up the day before the first day of eighth grade due to nerves over facing the same people.  Nobody ever knew that until now.

But, here's the ironic thing.  Despite all of the fear and the anxiety that I had going into eighth grade, it ended up being one of my favourite years of elementary school.  And I think a large part of that came from three major surprises that took place at the beginning of the year.

Surprise #1:  For the first time in my school's history, all the classrooms were Grade 7/Grade 8 split classrooms.  This meant that in my classroom there were fourteen Grade 7 students and fourteen Grade 8 students.  This was absolutely perfect for me.  Unlike many of my fellow 1981 classmates, I got along with most of the ones from 1982.  I actually kind of wished that I had been born in 1982 instead while I was in school because I loved those guys.  So, having some pals in my class from Grade 7 was a nice bonus.

Of course, this leads to Surprise #2.  While I did have some trouble getting along with many of my fellow Grade 8's, interestingly enough, the kids who were in my grade were all kids I didn't really mind too much.  Those four boys who used to taunt me were scattered in the other two classrooms (something that they did right for a change), and I think that the others were all right people.  In fact, most of the ones who were in my eighth grade class I still keep in touch with on Facebook today.  So, in retrospect, the classroom assignment was a good one.

And, this led to Surprise #3!  The teacher that I dreaded having turned out to be a lot of fun - well, when we weren't doing gym class, that is.  I honestly don't know if he actually really liked me or not, but I can safely say that I got a lot out of his class, and I began to see him in a different light.  I mean, sure, I don't think I'll ever be his favourite pupil or anything like that, but I also don't think that he played favourites.  He was there to do a job, which was to teach us all the things that we needed to know to get out of elementary school and enter the brave new world known as high school.

But the ways in which he taught us were probably some of the most creative ways that I've ever seen any teacher teach.  The first month of school, we actually had to build a model of ourselves to display in our classrooms for school open house using old clothes, and stuffed newspaper, to simulate us being at our desks learning.  It was fantastic, and a lot of fun.

I also seem to remember art class being especially creative.  I think if I looked back on when I first became interested in art, it really began during my later years of elementary school.  Sixth grade was the year that planted the seed, and eighth grade was the year in which my love of art really sprouted.  We made simulated stained glass windows for Christmas, made lino art for another class, and we even turned our class photos into pictures of toys to put underneath our "class Christmas tree".

The teacher also found ways to make learning other subjects fun.  We performed science experiments in class (though I hated the ones involving balloons because I don't like the popping sound, and the kids used to make fun of me for it).  We played Scrabble during English class (which I believe I reigned supreme on most of the time).  I even remember the time in which we learned about the stock market and we all teamed up to create our own businesses to set up in the gym.  That event was always a lot of fun.  Sure, it was marred by the fact that a kid stole some of our team's money (ON MY BIRTHDAY, MIGHT I ADD), and because of that we were in the bottom half of the class.  Thankfully we weren't graded on that assignment or else I would have gotten my first "F"!

Come to think of it, my final report card was brilliant that year.  I ended up getting NEARLY straight A's in that class with one notable exception.

Okay, so as a gym teacher, my 8th grade teacher was still not very cool.  A C minus in gym?  Really?  I mean, at least I tried to sink baskets in basketball.  It took me fifty-nine times, but I still sunk a basket!

And, of course, I'll always remember my 8th grade graduation for a couple of reasons.  One, because I won the Faculty Award for Excellence in English.  And two, because I had my very first date that night.  Of course, I never saw the girl again after graduation, but there was that one special night.

But do you want to know the reason why I loved eighth grade so much?  It was the first year that I could remember in a long time where I didn't feel intimidated to go to school (well, aside from the first day, that is).  It was the first year in which I didn't go home feeling defeated each day (though there were some moments that really sucked).  And, while the year was filled with some personal drama (having your mom and sister hospitalized during your fourteenth birthday will do that to you - and I hope you're reading this I.B. - the boy who stole the stock market money on my birthday - and I hope you feel GUILTY about it too!) was also filled with fun and joy.  And for the first time in a long time, I ended a school year on a happy note.

Of course, it just happened to be the year that I graduated, but still...eighth grade was the year that I realized that maybe I could make the best of an uncertain situation and thrive from it.

Mind you, that illusion was shattered by high school...but hey, I'll take whatever I can get.

No comments:

Post a Comment