I bet that they’d find parental involvement in a child’s early education is just as important as well. Seriously, how much money is wasted on obvious studies? Of course the kids with the good elementary school teachers, i.e. the ones who truly care about their students, are going to do better overall academically for years to come. Then again, I am the daughter of a retired early elementary school teacher and the sister of a third grade teacher. I know how important early education is.
In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about my elementary school years lately, fourth grade in particular. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. C., passed away earlier this week. Fourth grade’s been on my mind ever since. Here’s the thing: I wish that I could say that Mrs. C was my favorite teacher, but I can’t. I can say that she certainly had an impact on me personally and how I viewed academics. I’d even go so far as to say that she was one of the most influential elementary school teachers I ever had. I really didn’t take school seriously until fourth grade. She made me realize just how much I had to learn.
There are so many details I can recall from her fourth grade class 20 years later it is ridiculous, and yet I don’t remember much of the following year. It was in fourth grade that my perfectionist nature first reared its ugly head, thanks, of course, to a teacher who was a perfectionist. I remember having problems in math and spelling. Every single day on the way to school my Mom, a former fourth grade teacher herself, would quiz me on my multiplication tables. This continued all year. I can still remember the rhymes that my Mom made up to help me remember them. I’m sure that she must have taught them to her students at some point. Thanks to Mrs. C and my Mom, I overcame a year of essentially doing little math under a less than stellar teacher
Then there were the issues with spelling. I ended up with C’s in spelling simply due to the fact that Mrs. C would not accept any word I spelled with an m. Fourth grade marked for me a transition from one elementary school to another within the same school district. The elementary school I attended from kindergarten until third grade taught a transition type of writing technique between printing and cursive writing. It resulted in my cursive handwriting not being up to Mrs. C’s standards. I didn’t make the cursive letter m properly. It made me angry; it also made me work harder to become a better student.
Then there were the good memories. I remember the stories she’d tell us about her dad, the point being that we should never take family for granted. That was also the first year that we had to keep a journal as a part of class. I kept a journal for most of my childhood and much of my early adulthood; the first journal in my collection is the journal I began keeping the first few weeks of fourth grade. It may well represent the beginning of my love of writing.
There were so many changes in my life that year. My baby brother was born, I began growth hormone injections, and my parents told me that I have Turner Syndrome. As I was watching the first girls in my class begin to start to develop into women, I began to wonder if it’d ever happen for me at all. There are some very funny and heartbreaking stories related to my childish notions of puberty and of Turner Syndrome, but they are enough to fill another post or two.
The more I thought about my life at that time, the more I realized that it is no coincidence that I remembered fourth grade so well. All of a sudden I had to deal with a new school, a new baby brother, the reputation of being a teacher’s kid (my Mom taught at the same school I attended), higher academic expectations, new expectations for my life, and more. I’m just very grateful that I had such a wonderful early education.
I learned so much more than just pure academics in fourth grade. Mrs. C’s stories will stay with me, as will the patriotism of her class. Not only did she make us recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, but the preambles to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as well. I’m glad that I had her as a teacher, even if I didn’t realize how lucky I was at the time.