Mrs. S. came in each Monday with freshly manicured nails. I like the way they clicked on the chalkboard or on the paper in front of us. I put paperclips on my fingertips so mine would make the same sound.
I learned cursive that year. Our class also learned how to walk in a straight line through the halls. Quietly. Or, not so quietly, because then we had to do it at recess.
My best friend’s dad died. Brian asked Christie out on a date in front of the whole class. When we passed a paper around, each student adding sentences to form a story, Steven always made it about Sonic the Hedgehog. We had to write an essay called, “If I Could Be Any Age.” Most kids said 18 or 21. I wanted to be 5.
The next year, Mr. F let us play with mercury with our bare hands. We were instructed to wash our hands afterward (and to not mention it to our parents). I admired the way it split and moved, not quite liquid but not quite solid.
We were tasked to take our 20 vocabulary words and weave them into a story. My favorite class assignment, I embraced the challenge of making connections with seemingly random words. We read our favorites out loud.
Melissa and I wrote our own stories after school. We drew illustrations and presented them using an old shoebox as the television. Mr. F. let us share with the class. He told us that we were the ying to each other’s yang. We bought necklaces to symbolize it.
I moved at Christmastime, taking my ying from its yang and leaving behind the halls I had walked for almost six years. My new world began with stories of fawns and a lion that talked. I only heard the last few chapters, but the story intrigued me enough.
We continued on, traveling the Oregon Trail and crossing the bridge to Terabithia. We wrote letters to the school saying why we should/shouldn’t wear uniforms. We battled a class tax on paper and pencils, wishing we could throw them into the Boston Harbor.
We learned how to take a moment in time, with all of its emotion, and commit it to written story. I chose the moment my parents told us we were moving. I can still picture them coming into the room I shared with my brother and sister, sitting down on my mattress on the floor, and sharing the news. My sheets were green.
The next year we could only write in cursive. Ms. P said that no one beyond sixth grade writes in print. Print is for children. This was the first year I owned white out.
A year older we were instructed to keep journals. We wrote, in print, our opinions of war as our country had just dropped a bomb on another. We wrote of our own plans for escape and hiding while reading the diary of a girl called Anne. Her diary was named, “Kitty.” Mine was “Daisy.”
The years that followed took us to incredible places – we charted current events, practiced persuasion in our essays, and traveled the world through food and language and literature.
Ah, literature. I devoured Les Miserables though I barely made my way through Beowulf. Our class acted out Romeo and Juliet right up in the front of the room. There, on the table, Juliet was dead. We read Great Expectations in the wintertime and The Canterbury Tales in the spring. We even each wrote our own tale, making a class compilation by the end of the year.
I struggle to recall all of their names. I grasp at these fading memories. And while I don’t remember who taught me my letters, I know how to write. I can’t remember who assigned each book, but I can read. For thirteen years I was encouraged to dream, risk, and embrace each moment.
Thank you, teachers, for giving of yourselves. Thank you for daring to be a fading memory in the life of a child who will be able to dream, risk, and embrace each moment because of you.