January 29, 2010
Skipping A GradeTweet
A few years before my elementary school burned to the ground from an act of arson, you could have found me in the school library. It was grade one, and although the rest of my class was busy doing their math practice, I was exempt and I was told to just "go to the library and find something to read".
The reason that I wasn't in class was that the teacher had nothing to teach me, nothing in her curriculum that told her what to do with an "advanced learner", and she truly didn't know else what to do with me. While all the rest of my classmates were struggling with addition (3 apples plus 2 apples equals 5 apples), I was already on to multiplication of two-digit numbers. Most of them were reading at the proper "grade one level", while I was on to reading Isaac Asimov novels.
I got to know the librarian very well. I would show up almost every day, and be given free reign of the place. Many times I was literally the only one in the school library besides the librarian herself, quietly reading at a table or even just sitting down in a corner. I learned the "dewey decimal" system. I roamed the library looking for any subject to read, sometimes opening an encyclopedia volume and just reading it from front cover to back.
Obviously this couldn't go on forever. My grade one teacher must have been concerned about the lack of instruction, or at least I assume so. I don't know exactly the conversations that happened between my parents and the school staff, but one fine morning in the middle of grade one my parents walked into the classroom. The teacher asked me to stand up and bring all of my personal articles with me. I walked into the hallway with all three of them, and the teacher proceeded to explain that I was moving to grade two.
It took a few minutes for this to sink in. At first I thought she meant "for today". Then I thought perhaps she meant "for a little while". No, she explained, I was never coming back to grade one. Then my parents assured me that this was not without their consent; they agreed with the school administrators and my teacher that I was just "too smart" for grade one, and I would surely find grade two more of an intellectual challenge.
So that morning I was ushered into grade two with the rest of the class staring me down. Every single one of them watched me walk over to the desk behind a little pony-tailed girl named Tracy, and deposit my belongings in my new desk. My parents left after making sure I was settled, and my grade one teacher went back to her classroom.
My grades went from straight A's to mostly C's and D's. Looking back at my report cards, it would take me many years before I started getting A's again. But I don't recall being very stressed about my grades, and in fact I know that by the time I hit grade five I was once again caught up to the material and bored in class most of the time. My grade five teacher wrote that I would "often daydream" in class. Yes, I remember that. I was simply bored. Testing of my reading skills again in grade five revealed that I was reading around a grade 12 level.
No, the hardest part of skipping a grade wasn't the academic side at all, it was the social side. During my first week in grade two I quickly learned that my move had alienated two groups of peers against me: the grade one students disliked me because they thought that I thought I was too good for them; the grade two students disliked me because, after all, I was really a grade one student and I didn't belong in grade two. The only ray of hope in this dark time was that of my truly good friend Michael from grade one, who decided that he still liked me and we could still play together.
I don't regret the decision they made for me to skip a grade. I'm sure that it had a non-trivial part in making me who I am today. But it does complicate the story of my childhood, along with so many other events that to me seem quite unique. In trying to explain some of my past to my oldest daughter, some times it brings up many more questions than I have answers.
Many years later when I first heard "The Logical Song" from Supertramp I was struck by its seemingly relevant lyrics to my own personal experience:
I believe that Roger Hodgson had a tougher time of grade school than I did, with him having been sent off to a boarding school. However, the lyrics he wrote of his own experience are so compelling that they appeal to many of us. Now some thirty years later, when I hear "The Logical Song" on the radio it still brings me back to that day in 1977: the day that I skipped from grade one to grade two.
Posted by Hammer at January 29, 2010 11:48 AM
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