I remember lots of things about grade one. I have a vivid memory of being very scared on the first day when the principal’s disembodied voice boomed over the intercom, asking each teacher to send a “runner” to the office. I was scared because I had brand new sneakers– which at that time were commonly called “runners”– and I was afraid the teacher might choose to send one of my runners to the office and I would never see it again and however would I explain THAT to my mom when she came to pick me up?
I remember having a little-girl teacher crush on Miss Rempel, who was young and sweet and could do no wrong.
I remember the word LOOK printed on a card hanging over the big green chalkboard. The O’s had been drawn like eyes to help us remember what word those letters stood for. I remember learning to read — See Dick. See Jane. See Spot. LOOK. LOOK at Spot! I remember the magic that happened when the jumble of letters coalesced into words, words into sentences, sentences into stories.
I remember little half-scap slips of lined newsprint and carefully printed letters. I remember spelling tests and stickers. I remember lining up two by two to go to the gym.
And I also remember sitting on the sidelines when we got there. I remember that many mornings my mom dropped me off to start the school day with morning recess, because the stiffness in my knees was at its worst when I first woke up, but by 10:00 I would be loosened up enough to walk up the stairs to the classroom. I remember that back then getting driven to school was not the norm as it has become in many communities today, and that not walking home like the other kids was one more reason to feel set apart. I remember always being picked last for dodge ball teams, because everyone knew I couldn’t run and was therefore not an asset.
I remember that we were supposed to sit, cross-legged, on a cold tile floor for music time. I remember feeling very conflicted about music time — I loved to sing, but oh was I uncomfortable. The music teacher’s only concession to my Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis was to agree that I could sit in another position if I couldn’t manage cross-legged. In an era before anyone talked about disability accommodation, it didn’t seem to occur to her that sitting on that floor was never going to work for me regardless of my position.
But in spite of all the reasons I had to feel “out of the picture,” I remember falling in love with school. Maybe because grade one gave me reading and writing: two friends that have faithfully kept me company on the sidelines for many years when the rest of the world is busy playing dodge ball.