Friday, July 18, 2008

My Weird Education, Part 1....

Loved all the comments last post and all the new Friends! 102 comments???? Wonderfully done!!!!!!!! I'll let you know what Kitty thinks, but I already know she is going to feel so loved. I liked all the places our chatting went too, gave me a lot of things to look up, as in -I- had never heard of a lot of those forms of poetry and different literature styles. SO much to learn...

Speaking of which, you asked for the story of My Weird Education, so we will start with that and leave Bonnie Raitt for another day....

Just before I started Kindergarten, my parents told me the school had sent a letter saying they were going to teach me to read using a wonderful new method. I mentioned, somewhat indigently, as I recall, that I could already read. We know, they told me but they are doing it this way now...(And so begins a public education saga that does not spiral upward)

What They had developed was something called ITA, which meant that They used a sort of different alphabet aand symblos and everything was spelled phonetically. (This is a real thing, click Here to see it..) This would mess anyone up, but for a kid who could already read it was disastrous. Boss once saw one of my early papers and remarked that the wonder wasn't that I could not (to this day) spell well, but that I could at all. Here is an example sentence....And remember a lot of these letters, were symbols, like AE, TH, UE, SH etc....

"An inishul teeching alfubet maeks thu task uv lerning tue reed eezeeer and mor enjjoiubul"

(No, sadly, I am not making this up, taken from the ITA website)

They abandoned it the next year. For somewhat obvious reasons. I remember being incredibly bored all thru elementary school, except for music. That teacher was great, music class was the best, and he collected fossils, same as me. (I was nuts for fossils, still am)

The school decided what would be best was for me to skip a grade, go from 3rd to 5th, which my parents told me, they had declined, saying it would be better to stay with my age group. Right. When I did get to 5th grade, I thought things were getting exciting, as NOW one could learn to play an instrument. Except my parents said no, and told me that we had taken a Music Aptitude Test on 4th grade, and the school had sent a letter home saying I was not Apt and should not be encouraged to play music.


In middle school, I got excited again, as one could take French and German and Spanish. Sign me the heck UP says I!!! I will speak them all! (I already had a private tutor in Swedish, due to an ABBA obsession, and the fact that all their early music was in Swedish) No, said the school. ONE language. You can't learn more than one at a time. You will fail. It's too hard. And if you took more than one, you would miss pottery class.

Now, I am NOT dissing pottery, at all, my sister is a potter, but we do not share this talent. The only time I felt good about anything in art class was this hooked rug thing we had to design and , uh, hook. I worked SO long and hard, it was going to be the best rug ever and hang on my wall! I painstakingly drew out my design, a skating blade (I was a figure skater) suffered thru the hooking of it and proudly turned it in.

Only to be hauled up and in front of the whole class told how bad it was. (I am sure it was, but that is not the point) We don't forget these things that happen when we are young.

Re-visiting the topic of two languages the next semester, I was told again NO. I would miss Gym and fitness was important. I explained that I was a competitive figure skater who rose at 5:30 every morning for practice 5 days a week, and often went back after school. That's nice, they said, but you need to learn gymnastics. Being 5'5 and 130 pounds of solid muscle one does not excel at gymnastics, as you can imagine. I actually FAILED the class. My first F. The un-even parallel bars scared the HECK out of me. And any of the kids who were still un-developed and twigs could manage it, and you know what girls can be like. Total public humiliation.

I did discover Shakespeare, which everyone else in 7th grade hated, and found a lifelong love. I learned to hate Dickens. I learned you could skip classes and hide in the library and that the notices sent home could easily be nabbed from the mailbox and I learned how to forge the Parents signature on the reply form.

( I may be getting more good out of this re-telling than I ever did with either of the Therapists I tried to go to, they seemed to think if only I would journal, everything would be fine, and then move onto how exciting my job must be and did I actually get on stage and play music???)

Tomorrow you will get the exciting tale of my Non-High School experience, and my attempt to go to college, and where it all ended up. Well, you kind of KNOW that, but it's a fine look at the American educational system and how badly it deals with students who are not, for lack of a better word, the norm.

That is my Story. So Far.

And THANK YOU for all the comments, you are truly the best. I love it here.

Love and not so much school,


At 9:57 PM , Blogger spacedlaw said...

Eeeeks. Your ealry life does look like a collection of mistakes and failure on the part of the educational program! (I wish I could retroactively kick your teachers' and educators' backsides)
It IS a wonder you can spell at all indeed. (And texting has not invented much as I can see).
Good thing you were strong and talented and (must have been) already Fabulous, otherwise you'd never have made it to adulthood.

At 10:38 PM , Blogger lexa said...

Oh my. As the mother of a soon-to-be kindergartener who can already read well and is very likely not to be part of "the norm" himself, I must tell you this post scares me. So. Very. Much.

And, yes, your education only shows how precociously Fabulous you must have been!

(I suppose this is an odd time/place/manner in which to delurk but I've been reading and enjoying your blog for a while now. Thanks!)

At 11:44 PM , Blogger pantagruel said...




More tomorrow, when I have slept. But... DUDE.

At 11:45 PM , OpenID mooninthegutter said...

It seems that there are far too many people who's education gets pissed about with, just on a whim. Ah well... it makes you a stronger person in the long run, I'm sure!

At 12:16 AM , OpenID kali-licious said...

Grr..blogger ate my post and I'm too tired to retype..more tomorrow.:)

At 12:33 AM , Blogger Rubius said...

Yeah... lurkers coming out of the wordworks... it's wonderful!!!

Your exposition is so raw and powerfully personal that it is hard to frame a response that encapsulates what I feel about this. It makes me angry on your behalf, saddened for the joy of study that was lost when you were so eager for it, and frustrated by the struggles you had to go through to claim your identity.. and many more emotions that are hard for me to express.

I'm sorry Lorraine... sorry you had to live this... but in a strange way I also am not sorry because everything that you went through has, in some way, made you the strong, able and eager person that you are now. In some way I know you must have come out better for the struggle.

I have often found such recountings to be of great help when trying to deal with things. Writing it out is so much different than simply speaking it aloud. I hope this is good for you. Thank you for sharing it all with us. I think it is a brave thing.

At 12:43 AM , Blogger spacedlaw said...

I was thinking about this post while doing the market thing this morning and thought it was too bad that you did not get the chance to go to a Montessori. school: If you HAD to have alernative education, then this one seems to give very good results if I can judge from the very fine specimens I have met. All are excellent musicians (they did say that the schools encourage that skill as it works for both side of the brain), which is why I mention it here.

At 1:02 AM , Blogger Rubius said...

happy full moon night all

At 5:26 AM , Blogger ivenotime said...

wow, what a nightmare Lo - I can't believe they denied you music. My parents made me play the clarinet in 5th grade which I detested, I begged for sax cuz I wanted to play jazz and blues, but was told only boys could do that. I had to play that @##@ clarinet all thru high school and still despise the instrument. And the reading thing is amazingly weird, good fod. Can't believe you had pottery in school - and gymnastics is a nightmare. period. (shudder)

Welcome to Lexa and moon in the gutter (what a cool name)! It is best to be very proactive when it comes to your child's education - our school system wanted my twins to repeat kindergarten merely because they were twins. I said absolutely not. One of them became valedictorian, the other did fine too, both are now college seniors.

At 7:29 AM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Yes, welcome Lexa and Mooninthegutter, very glad to meet you!

It was horrible. And no one did anything, which I can't imagine happening now, someone NOT encouraging their child to explore every interest, as far as possible.

I remember in third grade the teacher announcing we would now watch ANOTHER film strip, and I went to the bathroom and sat there on the floor, thinking my brain was going to explode if I had to endure ANOTHER inane filmstrip.

Yes, to being proactive with your kids education!

At 8:28 AM , Blogger Phiala said...

Wow... miss one day and everything goes nuts! Much poetic fun yesterday, and many scholars too, it seems.

Too busy for poems.
Manuscript to finish up.
Less fun than haiku.

But work pays the bills.
Mortgage, internet, power.
Else no blog at all.

Lorraine, that's amazing, both amazing that any adult would think that was a good idea, and amazing that you came out of it able and willing to read, write, play music, and be your own Fabulous self.

Me, I'm the wildly overeducated type. Once I got to college all was fine, though my time in a small rural elementary and highschool was filled with incidents like being kicked out of the school library (by the librarian!) because I read too much, and my mother being told by my math teacher that I couldn't be good at math and English because I was a girl. (Heh.)

Ack! Y'all are awful, awful people - I just realized I'm going to be thinking in haiku for the rest of the day. I may have to take it out on you later, but right now I need to mow the grass if it isn't already too hot out there.

Hot. Humid. Summer.
The grass continues to grow.
I must keep it mown.

(See? See what you've done to me??? A poor innocent scientist, forced into haiku!)

At 8:58 AM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Oh Phiala, so sorry! You and Dr Score must sit down and discuss Nemotoads for a while, fix you right up!

I remember in first grade I missed the first few days being sick and the three reading groups were all sorted out, and the teacher stuck me in the middle group, I looked at the book and the top group book, and went to her and said I thought I was meant to be in the top group, but she was busy and told me well, too late now.

I hated her from that moment on, and took the top book home and read it thru.

What a chance a teacher has to make SUCH a difference in a childs life, for better or for worse. I had some really good ones, sometimes, but sadly, it's the bad ones you remember....

And librarians? Kicking someone out for reading too much?????

At 9:24 AM , Blogger Phiala said...

Nematode haiku?
Doctors Score and Goslee speak
on C. elegans.

Actually, I can handle nematodes as a plant pathogen, or nematodes as a part of the soil fauna, but nematode genetics? So not my thing!

Lorraine, I don't mean at all to pick on your spelling, honest, but "nemotoad" conjured up such a fantastic image of a toad in a submarine! "Up periscope! Croak!"
With a captain's hat and a spyglass, of course, though the latter isn't much use underwater.

It is much too hot to do yardwork, having hit 92F here. I mowed approximately 3 square feet before retreating in search of shade and icewater. So I'll just hang out here where it's cooler, 'kay? I'll try to keep the nematode haiku to a minimum...

At 9:36 AM , Blogger ivenotime said...

Happy Haiku-ing Phiala :)- and wow 92 is way too hot to be mowing the lawn. Its sorta cloudy here and muggy. its a good day to pay the mountain of bills for the hub's company. that's why i am commenting on the blog....:) there anything else of interest i can say? otherwise i have to be an accountant. sigh. no thoughts. off i go :(

At 9:40 AM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

They will always be Nemotoads to me.....Hee-hee!

Spacelaw must put them in a story.

Way too hot here too. My big afternoon plan is to bathe. Conserving my energy for tonight.

At 10:13 AM , Blogger Aleta said...

Wow. Kicked out of the library for reading too much. That is just... just... well it makes a good story!

We did not have that crazy reading system but we went back and forth between some sort of phonetic approach and not over my first few years of school. I do not know for sure if that is the reason I have so much trouble with spelling but it makes sense to me. What always seemed odd to me, and it seems like it would be true for you too, Lorraine, is that I have always read a lot -- so if I can read the words and recognize them why would I not be able to spell them when I write?? So odd and frustrating to me.

I pretty much loved school. But I had pretty good teachers I think. Except for fifth grade. Mrs. Fyre (pronounced "fear" -- seriously) She was seriously scary.

I am so glad that you found your way to music in spite of those nasty roadblocks they set up for you!

At 11:13 AM , Blogger EmilyLady said...

Uproarious. And I have to admit that I doubt the public school system has changed very much. (The elementary and middle schools in my town are horrendous.) My mother pulled me out halfway through fourth grade to home-school me.


At 11:32 AM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Aleta, you may be onto something, I can recognize the word, and read it, but can spell it. Mrs Fear. Hee-hee

You sound lucky Emily. I have always wondered about kids who are home schooled. Good thing/bad thing?

Can you give us any insights into it vs what school-school was like? What does home schooling involve?

We'd welcome input from your Mother too, who I am certain might have a lot to say on the subject.

I got music alright. When we moved to Minnesota, intruments were free, and anyone was welcome to play, so I started violen in 6th grade, and then my parents got me lessons.

When I was 15 , I was much wiser, and started in July saying I wanted a guitar and lessons for Xmas. Never wavered or asked for anything else. Wore 'em down and got it.

At 11:42 AM , Blogger spacedlaw said...

Good on you!

Nemotoads is a great typo and I shall try to write the little creatures into a story (I am toying with one about flying islands which would go nicely with it, methinks).
It will be a good diversion from the two I am currently working on...

At 11:53 AM , Blogger ivenotime said...

Yes, i would like to hear about home schooling too - i had debated doing that for my girls when they were in fifth grade as I didn't care for either of the two teachers. it's quite popular out here - the y and art museum offers some special programs for home schoolers.

wow, getting kicked out of a library - i don't know what i would have done if that happened to me - i just about lived there, was a haven.

At 1:12 PM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

I think we all sought refuge there, in libraries...

I am excited for this story, only Nemotoads isn't a typo, not being a scientist , that's what I CALL them, hee-hee...

As far as what they actually are, who can say. I always thought they were kind of like worms who made compost, but that mightn't be correct.

At 1:13 PM , Blogger Lexocat said...

Thanks for the welcome, all!

Yes, proactive with education. Most definitely. I'm keeping fingers crossed that we can minimize the bureaucratic nonsense that seems to be an inevitable (but so unnecessary) part of formal schooling.

Bad librarian stories distress me! I'm another for whom the library was a haven.

The librarian at our local branch was lovely. She was like Nancy Pearl before anyone heard of Nancy Pearl (and certainly deserved her own action figure). She made a point of noticing what you read and made suggestions based on your taste and interests. Pretty amazing, really.

Later, when I returned as a college student, she greeted me with hugs and told everyone around us how clearly she remembered me as a child checking out stacks of books taller than I was (after having read a good half dozen books while at the library) then returning a day or two later with all the books read and looking for more.

She was one of those making a difference in a positive way, for sure.

Oh, and Lorraine? Your reading group story? Reminds me of my first grade teacher who, when I kept losing my place in the textbook because I'd become bored waiting for the other kids to take their turn and had read ahead to the end of the book, responded by *demoting* me from reading group to reading group. Like that was going to help. Then she had the audacity to tell my parents at the parent-teacher conference that I was unmotivated where reading was concerned.

Perhaps she should have talked to the librarian ...


At 3:12 PM , Blogger Phiala said...

Still too hot to mow.
Now eighty-seven degrees.
Hellboy has AC!

At 4:27 PM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Lexocat, you have SO been there too, oh yes...great story!

To hot to mow? We just had some pretty dramatic storms pop up FAST. I Weather Girl didn't even know there WAS a tornado watch out..

There I was, watching the pilot to Dead Like Me, and BAM the sirens are going off...Obviously we are fine, but exciting for a while.

Now I have to go and go my show, I am certain that my energy and enthusiasm for this will come back by the time I get there....

At 4:45 PM , Blogger gaypet said...

Break-a-leg Lorraine! We have a tornado watch here which is NOT my favorite so be safe!

I always hated school. Most of my teachers thought I was dumb until I was given some test and then everyone decided that I was an underachiever. Dyslexia was not something they seemed to consider. I took lots of notices out of the mail and there was a lot of getting hit for bad grades. I went to private school but it was religious and more about indoctrination than education. They were allowed to hit us to (if you can imagine!). I was not allowed music lessons because my parents thought me too lazy to practice and not allowed to read anything but religious books at home. I spent a lot of time alone in the park, smoking and reading what I wanted.

The only really great thing my Dad did for me was take me to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (in Ashland) 3 years in a row (I asked for it for my 14th, 15th and 16th birthdays). Some really great memories of that!

On the bright side, I was also told that "girls can't do math" and am now getting an "A" in my first math class in about 16 years. So frak 'em, I say!

I would love to home school my son but am not sure how to do it as a single parent. Any ideas? Plus, he is an only child and I wonder about his social skills later.

At 6:28 PM , Blogger Bulfinch's Aglaia said...

Wow, I'm offline for a couple of days and the place exploded into a poetry paradise!! :-) But since I can't do that poetry thing (read it all the time, but I cannot write, nope nope nope), it's probably best I was temporarily absent. And sweet merciful heavens, Fablo, what a sad, frustrating story. I had a more than a few problems in school myself and a bunch with my own fabulous kids, which is a big chunk of why I want to be a teacher myself. Y'all keep me on the right path of being one that listens and cares, okay?? And btw, I didn't have much fun in grades K-12 (except for a couple of really good English teachers), but I loved and still love college and grad school. Not sure what made things change, but change they did. Oh -- and thank you to everyone for your good thoughts regarding the fire in CA and my sister. All is well on that front, she is back in her home, nothing destroyed, God bless those brave fire crews forever!! (And to totally change the subject, am I sad that your nice Boss isn't coming anywhere near the South during his Graveyard Book tour? Yes, yes I am. So that means all y'all have to come visit with me instead!!)

At 7:19 PM , Blogger Dan Guy said...

Lori and I decided a while back to start homeschooling the kids. We let Xander finish the first grade, but he's not going back any time soon. It seemed like I was doing all the teaching anyway, in the form of hours of "homework" every day.

We're already having a lot more fun. We raised a bunch of frogs. We're playing a lot of games that require quick math. Xander and I are getting an engine to strip down and rebuild in order to learn how they work, and then we're going to build a go-cart with it. It's awesome.

At 8:41 PM , Blogger ivenotime said...

Hey Grace, glad to hear things are going better for you - and glad that your sister did not sustain any damage to her home. and Dan, what an impressive start to foster a love a learning in your kids-i would've loved to take a motor apart as a kid, very cool. and the education never ends - today i showed my daughter how $18.00 worth of webbing and nails transformed a rocker from no good to extremely comfortable.

At 9:40 PM , Blogger Beez said...

Grace- is that you? Hee

I think I was very lucky in school, even early on with the nuns (Yep, only left moderately warped).
I can NOT imagine being kicked out for reading too much. My elementary school librarian finally limited me to checking out 7 books at a time each week....I guess she figured one per day was a good round number.

Also, even though I have had to advocate and stay ON it all the time I will be forever glad that I have the public schools that I do here in Minneapolis. My darling Son & Heir has Asperger's Syndrome, and the autism program and support system has made a world of difference (much as he may bitch about it).

Ooh and- the heat broke! Finally!

At 11:39 PM , OpenID kali-licious said...

More people have de-lurked..nice to see ya:)

It's crazy to me how the school system treats people when they fall to either side of the middle.
That ITA thing was just crazy. It's awful that you had to struggle so hard just to get what you wanted and needed.

No musical aptitude?? How were they supposed to know if you'd never tried? My parents didn't want me to start trumpet in 6th grade because I'd had problems in music class (as in, being painfully shy) and also because they thought I'd drop it quickly the way my sister did. Little did they know..I worked my way up to first chair by 9th grade. I ended up giving it up in high school due to a combination of a bad teacher (he gave me e flat music and wanted me to play it on my b flat cornet..and my teeth started hurting) and the fact that everyone had to be in marching band. I tried it..went to band camp..and really hated it.
Later on, I got a nice electric guitar but just as I was getting to be ok on it, my evil factory job gave me carpal tunnel, so that was the end of that! Now I just listen to good stuff and sing along.;)

Oooh what that art teacher did was COMPLETELY inexcusable. (Oh and don't feel bad about the lack of pottery teacher and I used to joke about my spectacularly awful efforts at the wheel.)

Gym..ugh. The less said the better. Suffice to say that I was vastly uncoordinated, and that didn't lend itself to fun OR good grades.

Heeheehee..Dickens..I second that.;)

At 11:43 PM , OpenID kali-licious said...

Oops..forgot some;-P

Grace I'm so glad to hear that your sister is ok.

DanGuy, I'm kind of jealous that your kids get to have such fun and cool things to learn. Xander is gonna have lots of great memories.

At 12:45 AM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

THANK YOU for all sharing these stories! You have no idea how comforting it is to know how Not Alone I am in having such a horrible time, and it supports my theory that pretty much everyone who didn't "fit in" went onto become someone really cool.

And I second the gladness about people de-lurking. Even if you're shy, just say a Hello. Don't worry about feeling like you don't know what to say, if you are reading this, and it makes you happy, you belong.

It's painful to have gone thru schooling like I did, and hard to watch friends of mine go thru it with their kids. Anyone caring who is becoming a teacher has my vote, or home schooling their kids.

Gym is insane (remember Dodgeball???) basing grades on how good you are at a sport is wrong. Especially in an era where so many kids are overweight. Great, make them feel worse about themselves.

Music too, if you find joy in it, you should play. I had so many friends who hated it so because of teachers who felt they had to drum it into them and parents who shut their kids away and set a timer and tell them to practice. Where is the joy in that. Be there with them. Tell them how great they are.

There ARE good teachers out there tho, who care about kids, and want to help them be everything they can. It's sad that the bad is getting all the attention.

At 12:56 AM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Oh, just got home from my gig. Long drive. A friend of ours showed up, one of the best Bodrahan (neither I nor spellcheck will ever get that right, think "Irish Drum") players going, and he sat in most of the night, very great fun!

Strange crowd, but there were people who came for us, or who ended up staying for us, which makes it better. I wasn't entirely excited about playing, very tired, but there's something about playing that makes you give all you have..

The club is funny in that they have SIX TV's including two only we can see. Last time we played I got to watch Finding Nemo. (and his Toads) but tonight was all sports. Wrestling. Ugh. There is something about nearly naked guys rolling around together and beating each other up that repels me.

There is also a large copper Structure over the bar that besides doing really weird things to the sound, looks like something that belongs in a Dr Who set....Paul and I have no idea what it is, or what it is meant to be. Neither does anyone else...

Calling the Tardis....

At 1:42 AM , Blogger Lexocat said...

Oh, hey, just to be clear:

Lexa = Lexocat

I'm the same person. I had changed my display name and forgot to change it back. Sorry.

That is all.


At 1:59 AM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Well, Lexa, we are glad you are here, no matter which name. (and as someone who apparently THREE different blogger id, two of which I knew nothing about, I can appreciate this)

Are you in Europe, or just up late? I need to go to bed, but it is so hard after gigging so late...I am surprised Spacelaw is not here telling me to Go To Bed!!!

At 2:13 AM , Blogger spacedlaw said...

Sorry, I am remiss in my tasks (busy writing the second bit of this Nemotoads story):
Go to bed!

At 2:16 AM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Want Nemotoads story! I know it's there...

She says, going to bed....

At 8:41 AM , Blogger pantagruel said...

Now that I'm all done with my day in the studio (missed Dave McKean's show opening; couldn't talk everyone into canceling the night class and driving for two hours. Wusses.)...

Dan Guy -- heh, one of my minions homeschools his kids, and also has a son named Xander. How odd.

There are so many poor teachers out there, and when schools succumb to the latest pedogogical craze like ITA spelling, new math, or any of the other assorted crack-smoking ideas that've swept education, it's a Bad Thing. My heart goes out to everyone who's been on the wrong side of it.

I was a bit luckier. With two academics as parents, school was what the entire family revolved around. I remember being very confused when kindergarten was not anything like my father's university. I was lucky enough to have gone to good schools, with excellent programs for the gifted and talented and parents who fought hard for me. I did well, and continued to do well through grad school.

But even with that, there were some perils. My parents, not wanting me to have a swelled head, utterly refused to tell me the results of any of the many aptitude and intelligence tests I'd been put through before starting school. When I came to kindergarten, I could already read, and was reading a lot of mythology at the time, so I was pulled out of class to go have private reading lessons with another teacher. (She did not like the Baba Yaga stories I was in love with then, and kept asking me if I wouldn't rather read the watered-down fairy tales she had instead.) This went on for about three years, and I never knew what the other kids were reading, because I'd always been pulled out of class. The only other kids I saw getting pulled out of class were the special ed kids -- so with my eight-year-old logic, I was convinced I must be really stupid, if I didn't qualify even to read what the kids with Downs were reading. One day, my reading teacher was sick, so I was left in my class for the reading lessons. I was absolutely panicked. What were they reading? Science journals like my dad's? Books in French like my mom's? These would be books I could not read, and my secret stupidity would be discovered.

When I saw Dick & Jane books being passed out, I was furious. I pitched such a fit that I got sent to the principal's office for what would be the first of many trips. No one meant to keep me that much in the dark; they all had the best intentions, and couldn't understand why I was so angry. From that point on, my parents became much more involved in my schooling.

On music -- my dad was an excellent pianist, who turned down joining the band Chicago to go do his postdoctoral work at Cornell. (Yes, he kicked himself every time one of their songs came on the radio.) My dad could not understand why I showed no musical aptitude. I dutifully sat at the piano during my lessons, and plunked the right keys in the right order, but I hated every minute. I didn't exactly play with soul. In band class, I suffered through the clarinet and the saxophone, and in choir, I had to sing the bass lines because my voice was so deep. And sing very quietly to avoid getting yelled at for being off-key. My parents wanted me so much to be musical, but I only liked drums; wanted art instead. As it turns out, a few years ago, I discovered that I'd lost just enough hearing from many ear infections in childhood to irreparably damage my auditory nerves. Sure explained a lot, though it was 30 years too late.

At 9:40 AM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Val, I loved Baba Yaga! still remember reading that for the first time, and thinking how unbelievably cool it was she had a house on chicken legs.

I can remember auditioning for chorus (In the 5th grade) and being SO terrified to sing alone in front of someone, and being turned down, as I wasn't good enough at singing, but I SO wanted to.

5th grade?

Bill Bryson (yes, I've been reading "Notes from a big country" everyone should...) has some things to say on the subject of Everyone Gets to Play.

It seems there are now a lot more options for the G&T and the Special Ed (tho not sure I like that term..) than there were when we were growing up.

Kids are still falling thru..

And not to get political (she says, opening a can of worms) but don't get me started on No Child Left Behind. People from Mars should not be aloud to make policy for us down here.

What did the brainstorming session go like????

Fairly Sane Dude: Kids need better education

Moron A: Yup. Sure do. We shall test them every couple of years and see how hey are doing and if a school isn't performing up to standard, and lots of kids fail, we will take away their money.

Fairly Sane Dude: How will less moeny in the poor areas improve things, they don't have enough as it is?"

Moron A: Well, it will sure teach them!!!!!!!!

And so it goes...Urban city kids face a whole LOT more challenges than we could dream of...

At 9:42 AM , Blogger Maureen said...

It sounds like we had the same art teacher! My first experience with art class was to be ridiculed for drawing a car "wrong". I was told that "everyone" knew that you drew the wheels first. She held the drawing up and mocked it, and of course everyone else in the class nodded along though I kind of doubt that they "knew" wheels were drawn first. She later refused to grade a bird I'd painted, saying that I must've had someone else do it when she was out of the room because I wasn't that good.

Obviously, my name on book cover credits and your Desire boots are a testament to my bad n sucky art skillz, LOL!!

College art was weird because teachers and students could be up for the same jobs. It could be handled well, but often was not.

Grade school was awful because I could read when I was 3. My mom read to me and I just caught on, so in 1st grade I could read at a high school level... which led to boredom, which led to annoyance on both the part of the teacher and myself. Like you, they wanted me to skip a grade but mom said "no", so more boredom for me.

Dad made me go to a Catholic school (no offense to Catholics, but I realized by age 7 it was just *not* who I was) which was good in that it was tiny and the courses more challenging than public school, but the endless religious droning drove me bonkers: the guilt, the FUD factors, etc. I begged to go to the private (non-religious) high school because I knew it would be a good fit educationally and socially, but Dad said either the Catholic high school (tuition was the same either way). There were many fights over that and I eventually went to public high school which I knew would be a disaster based on knowing kids in the neighborhood who'd gone to public school. The high school classes were behind what I'd already learned in the smaller school, so I was really bored. The best thing that happened to me was getting a teacher who helped me "drop out". Seriously. I got a radio license via a special class he was teaching as an experiment (to see if high schoolers could pass). I was the only one that did on the first try and got a job with a fat paycheck as a result. I quit "normal" high school and finished up at what they called "alternative school" which was intended for the pregnant girls and students with jail time, but it allowed a student to do the normal curriculum at their own pace. After taking placement tests, I was close to graduation requirements even though I was a sophomore. I finished the work in less than two months (would've been two years in "normal" high school).

In high school I wasn't allowed to take shop or auto mechanics because I was a girl. Girls took home ec and sewing. Never mind that I could already cook and sew (mom again... before I ever started school). I hated those classes because I was bored. I knew all that stuff. I did not know shop or mechanics but had a strong desire to explore those unknown areas. I found an alternate way to learn about cars that later turned into a personally dangerous situation. Too bad I couldn't learn at school *only* because I'm a girl.

We're a very sports-oriented city. Even non-sporting events seem to get that sports mentality of competition slathered all over them. I took music (that aptitude test said I was a good candidate), and I loved playing the piano and the violin... BUT... that's it. I loved playing. It was enjoyable and relaxing and fun. I was told if I didn't enter contests and perform and compete, then there was no "sense" in my continuing to play. Enjoying music just for the sake of enjoying music wasn't a popular concept here.

I strongly suspect school is about educating one to conform rather than to actually expanding knowledge and encouraging thought.

Sorry to write a novel as a comment but you hit a *lot* of buttons with your post. I'd love to go back and smack some of your bad guys as much as I'd like to smack some of mine.

At 10:15 AM , OpenID kali-licious said...

That's so cool that your friend came by with the bodhran. (heehee..I had to check one of my Kate Bush albums to spell that;) I've always wished I could play one, but the tipper is just too much wrist work, so I'll stick with my djembe.

This club that you played in, are they a microbrewery? Because that might be the reason behind the strange copper tubing. Or maybe it's just a guidepost for the Tardis navigational system.;)

At 10:20 AM , Anonymous Marjorie said...

Oh Fod, and I thought I had problems with my school.

I know my parents were told off because I could already read when I started school, and I had been ‘taught’ the ‘wrong’ way. (I’m pretty sure I wasn’t ‘taught’ as such at all, but I lived in a house full of books and my parents read to and with us a lot.)

When I was in secondary school (age 11-18), the Powers That Be had decided that any selection by academic ability was Wrong and Elitist: this meant that I spent an awful lot of time in school bored out of my skull as every class was geared to the slowest. When we started our GCSE classes (GCSE = exams taken at age 16 here in the UK, you select subjects (maths & English compulsory) at 14 so the course is 2 years long) our Maths teacher wanted a bunch of us to take the exam after 1 year, and free us up to pick something else (or to continue to a higher level) in the 2nd year. The school refused to allow it. At 14 I felt it was ridiculous to hold people back in this way: I still do - who did they think they were kidding – did they think kids weren’t capable of working out that some people are better at school work than others? Who would it have hurt to let me go on a study Italian (or metalwork, or Physics) for a year?

There was also the fundamental unfairness that it was apparently just fine to be competitive and elitist as long as you were doing it in a sporting and not an academic context. As a short-sighted, asthmatic child with two left feet and no co-ordination, I was never good at sport, and I wasn’t allowed to be good at the things I could do.

I also went through the school system in the period when it had been decided that teaching (or expecting students to learn, or use) spelling and grammar was old fashioned and Bad. I was never taught any English grammar at all. Ever. I mostly know what is or isn’t correct usage (mainly because I read an awful lot, and always have) but in most cases I couldn’t tell you why because I don’t have that framework. And of course, this lack of knowledge is something I share with a whole generation, some of whom are now teachers themselves, and can’t teach this because they don’t know it themselves.

Sorry for such a long comment but your post brought back a lot of memories!

At 10:26 AM , Blogger spacedlaw said...

Maybe it is best that you were denied the type of education you were looking forward to. Bad teachers can spoil the fun of learning in no time at all and lead you to dislike what you thought you had adored before.
It took me over twenty year to go back to Balzac and I am a bookworm of Dune proportion but school had me off it. And him being such a marvelous author too. My teacher ought to be burnt on a public place to make up for all that love time lost.

Just a thing which I wrote this morning:
"Whatever they teach at school, tolerance and broadness of view never seems to be on the program." (That's in the opening scene of Oscar and the Nemotoads, if you really want to know).

At 10:28 AM , Blogger Aleta said...

It seems to me that there is not any one perfect system of education. There are horror stories and tales of great experiences from public schools, private schools and home schools. It seems like there are some keys to things going well in any of those situations. Involved parents, caring teachers, focus on each child.

I am with you, Lorraine, on No Child Left Behind. Great title but nothing much worthwhile between the covers.

I am a strong supporter of public education however. I know that there is great room for improvement. Both the well intentioned and those who would like to undermine the whole public system have caused damage. I do see some good things happening too though. I think my 11 year old godchild is getting a good public education (in an urban school district, too) and is being encouraged in many wonderful creative directions.

Dan's home school sounds great. It seems to come from a good place too. I worry about home school when it is used as a way to avoid people or ideas that are different from the parents. You know? But I do think that there are times and places when it is a good option. (As long as there is also opportunity for social interaction with other kids from time to time.)

Gym class. Fod. It always seemed to me that it was the only class that did not really attempt to teach you anything -- you either had the innate abilities or did not. If you did you got A's and got to pick on the people who did not. If you did not you got C's and had to endure public humiliation daily.

I remember in grade school -- maybe 3rd or 4th grade -- finally getting fed up with the whole thing. I was always the last picked for baseball. One day it came down to me and the other fat girl. I just looked at them all and walked away. I went to the swing set and sat on a swing. I refused to play. I told the teacher that it was ridiculous. I did not want to play, they did not want me to play, I was not going to play. Who ever came up with that crazy "picking teams" thing anyway. I think it would be okay for just a pick-up game but as actually part of a gym class. IMO that is wrong. (Breath. Leave the childhood bitterness behind.)

This thread is very therapeutic!

At 10:31 AM , Blogger spacedlaw said...

Therapeutic indeed. It seems every one here has bad memories about gym.

At 10:58 AM , Blogger Bulfinch's Aglaia said...

Fablo, where I am teaching, the preferred term is "exceptional education" -- and this does include the gifted kids. And there is an arts magnet school that my youngest is going to. He's a drummer. You have to audition for the school, in either performing arts, visual arts, or language arts. I have no idea how many get turned away, but I know some do. I am thankful that my son got in, because although he is intellectually gifted and receives services for the gifted, he doesn't fit in with the brainiacs. I think he'll do better with the artists types. I hope . . . My oldest hated school so much that he dropped out after 11th grade. I mean hated. He was and is so very perceptive and brilliant to talk to (have no idea if he would be considered gifted, but he can outthink most adults I know). My second son, we homeschooled him for his 8th grade year because middle school was such a hell for him. He did better in high school. And my daughter was one of those kids that the teachers adored (she is truly kind) and she was decently smart -- brought home a few Cs with the As and Bs, but not so much as to be totally bored every moment of the day. I've had really varied experiences as a mom, and have fought with many an administration. So I think I'll have an interesting perspective as a teacher this year! Myself? Some good, some bad, some real real badness that included some physical assault and other bad things. But I survived and now I thrive. Sorta . . . :-)

At 11:51 AM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Don't apologize for the long posts here!!!!! Everything you are all saying rings SO true for me, and I want to hear EVERYTHING you have to say!

It's all happened to me too. The picking teams, being told off for knowing things quickly, not learning grammar, being so bored and hating it.

I never finished high school and left after 9th grade, (I was ENROLLED for 10th but managed not to ever go) and the saga of trying to get a GED was beyond bizzare...

I will tell that but Sharon is yelling for me to come do bees, she has the same school stories by the way , a great one of telling the teacher about a Raodrunner, and having the teacher tell her they weren't real, and she brought in her birdbooks the next day and told the teacher everything about the bird, and was hated from that day on...

At 12:03 PM , Blogger Beez said...

Now I want to time travel back and shake a lot of the past Bad Teachers until their teeth rattle.

Do NOT get me started on No Child...what a complete crock of [insert as many bad words as you choose].

We are in an urban public school, and while I thank the gods and goddesses for great and dedicated Special Ed. people my son has had (who aren't afraid to bend a few rules), having gotten more deeply involved in the schools because of it- WHY must schools have to fight for any resources? Why can't there be better programs in place for kids who are homeless or transitory (a large chunk of our school's population).

In Son+'s last school- a Fine Arts magnet with a high population of low income kids- we had to fight and struggle and spend countless hours to just keep the music and arts classes in A Fine Arts School.

WHY does the Federal Government insist on so many programs (NCLB and some Special Ed), mandate them under threat of funding withdrawal and then fund less than 7% overall of what they insist on???
This passes the onus down to the state, which under our current governor doesn't fund, which passes it down to the school districts which.....




At 1:51 PM , Blogger Dan Guy said...

I have a mini obsession with reading memoirs by kids who were picked on. I know how much worse my grade school education could have been.

That said, it was awful. Not just socially, but academically. I was a "good student" who never skipped, not even once, and in retrospect I really wish that I had. None of it was that important. None of it was that big a deal. Being in the "academically gifted" track meant that I was never asked to prove myself so was never forced to actually learn. Not that my teachers really seemed to try to teach.

In seventh grade we read "A Midsummer Nights Dream", my first exposure to Shakespeare. We were forced to buy our own books, thankfully, because I picked up a Folger edition that had definitions and footnotes on each facing page. Once I got the hang of the English, Shakespeare was my oyster. Senior year I got back from a summer in Oxford in a college-level Shakespeare course and we did Othello in AP English. The teacher insisted that the dropped handkerchief was the most important thing in the play. I begged to differ. She had us read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and then write our own short autobiographies. I tried to do something more experimental and she gave me an F. I hated that class. All the rest were tolerable, but that one I actively despised.

Most of them were equally worthless, though. I had three truly great teachers, and one of them I only had because my records didn't transfer so they put me in remedial English for a week in seventh grade. The other two were Physics teachers, one of whom taught us all of the calculus we would ever need to know in the first week. (He did, and he was right.)

Before deciding to homeschool the kids, I read a lot of books about education and the US educational system. I think the problems are in large part due to incorrect "accepted wisdom", systemic problems, and the malicious aims of the promoters of compulsory education. The literacy rate in America was significantly higher a century ago, when it was just expected that kids would pick it up on their own. There were fifteen year olds who were Admirals in command of ships during the Revolutionary War. We've infantilized our children and killed their natural ability to self-teach.

At 2:37 PM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

I started going to night college class at the U here when I was 16, and loved them, you were there to learn and take it as far as you wanted to go. And if you had to go to the bathroom, you went, and didn't need a to ask and get a pass.

(By college they assume you know how and when to do this on your own)

When I was 17 I wanted to go full time, but needed the GED. When I went to sign up I was told one had to be 18, because before 18 they wanted you to go back to school and graduate with you class, and explaining that I had been in college for a year, showing them the transcripts, and telling them I wanted to enroll full time in September did not make a difference.

Besides they said, you will need a full six month course to pass this test, it's 6 hours and VERY HARD.

I aced it in 2 hours 30 minutes on my 18th Birthday, without, needless to say, any help. I don't believe my dog could pass it, but Venus might.

I know your average 6th grader could.

Why are music and art and languages becoming almost non-existent?

Dan, you're right about the G&T not ever having to prove themselves and the Special Ed kids never being able to feel like they are good enough and end up thrown into regular classes and made to feel inferior...Or the G&T programs being cut, so those kids spend YEARS being bored and looking for ways out.

(one will gnaw off a leg to get out of a deadly trap)

Beez, fighting for music and art at a fine arts school? That's crazy. Bless the parents who are taking the time to fight back.

Agaila, You are going to be a great teacher.

At 4:39 PM , Blogger gaypet said...

It is interesting to me that even though some of us were smoking behind the school (or lighting fires in the garbage cans, like me) and others of us were in the "Gifted" classes many of us seem to have found Shakespeare and fallen in love with language.

This Fall my classes will include Shakespeare ('cause I want to take it again) and a Children's Lit class. I can't wait!

Dan, I agree about infantilizing out young adults. The idea of "Teenagers" is so new and unnecessary. No, some people don't develop impulse control until 24 or so. But most older cultures at least begin initiating young people into the world of adults by 13 or so.

At 7:09 PM , Blogger EmilyLady said...

I love school stories. There is so much you can do with them.

I know some of you asked about home-schooling, so I'll write a blog entry on it, if you want to check there in a few days!


At 8:12 PM , Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

We will, Emily!

It is funny how many of us fell in love with Shakespere in school, a love that never stopped, while hating almost everything else.

I still say 7th grader should NOT have to read Great Expetations unless they have a teacher who is really good at it tho.

The Bard can transend bad teaching, Charles did not.

At 11:13 PM , Blogger pantagruel said...

Quiche, that's a great story about your GED... straight from the Department of Redundancy Department! Bureaucracy. Sigh.

Some of us were both pulling a 4.0 and smoking behind the school, lighting things on fire, and fighting. It baffled all the adults, but it made perfect sense to me.

See, I was athletic, tall for my age, very strong; and picked first for teams. I was an Amazon. And I believed with the conviction and energy only young people who read a lot of fantasy novels possess, that it was my duty to protect those who were weaker than I was (which was everyone who was not a teacher). Fairly quickly, everyone learned that if you messed with me, or anyone else when I was around, I'd eat your face.

I never got expelled. The conversations went like this:

'But you're such a good student! Why did you do something as dumb as fighting?'

'Because he was making her cry/ punched her/ was about to break his arm/ didn't know when to stop teasing her. So I stopped him.'

And the adults would sigh, and pack me off home. Meanwhile, the tormentor would get shamed because they just got their ass kicked by a girl.

After a few years, all it took was getting to my feet to immediately end a confrontation. The cruel kids respected me, the people who didn't fit in liked me, and I was left to do my own thing, which was great.

However, the unintended consequence: every boy in school was too intimidated to ask me out on dates, or to say yes when I asked them.

At 11:40 PM , Blogger Lexocat said...

In Europe? No (though I can dream). I'm in California and definitely one who flies with the Night Owls. Spacedlaw might have to start shooing each of us back to our respective beds :)

Actually, I went to bed right after commenting but I'm sorry I didn't stay up just a tad longer to read your response when you posted it. I'd been up unwinding from my night as well as replacing all the books pulled from their shelves earlier in the evening. Had to show the sitter first who Dave McKean is (Pantagruel, sorry you didn't make it to the opening!) and, later, who Edward Gorey was (mostly to demonstrate his influence on Tim Burton following a Batman discussion).

The sitter seemed to take it well. Or, at least she's willing to return. Hee.

Actually, she's been our sitter for the last two years and knows full well she'll leave with exposure to at least One New Thing. It's never planned; it just happens.

Dan, I'm curious which books you read re education and which, if any, you would recommend. And, for the record, I want to attend your home school. That whole engine thing? Sweet!

Oh and I was another Baba Yaga fan, though the mortar-and-pestle-as-transportation were the images that lingered for me (mostly because I had to look up the words when I first read the stories). As a child, I kept picturing the chicken legs under her house as cooked drumsticks. Ah, well.

At 5:26 AM , Blogger Dan Guy said...

I was a terrible student. I did the homework during class and then read. I never studied for things except French vocabulary. I wasted so much time.

I think that all a student needs is a voracious appetite for reading, a good guide to math, and an artistic outlet. Everything else will follow from those.

At 10:27 AM , Blogger Erin Underwood said...

I read the bit about the ITA.
I continue reading, sure it is a joke.
I think to myself, "Hmmm, did I miss the punch line?"
I look. No. No, punch line.
I click the link, my head explodes.
I shake what's left of the bits of my brain and wonder how anyone could think that was a good idea.
I scotch tape my brain back together.
I thank Dog that I never had to learn to read using ITA.


Glad you made it out alive, and with your speller intact! The ITA is enough to scramble any kid's brains.

At 1:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


I hated that phonics thing. WTF man? And I REALLY hated gym (though I now, 5'6" with a ton of muscle and some fat on top) happily exercise often.

Teachers who say dumb things like "well, that [art project] didn't turn out the way you wanted it to [dudette - how do you know?]" need to be kicked in the shins.

I think that some of my teachers thought that I was a space alien who'd never amount to anything - then I got out of high school, went to an Important College, got A+s in my major courses because I loved them so much, and went on to be a self-supporting, pretty happy adult. Guess what folks, I was BORED!

You are not alone. You are among the best people. Anyone who peaks that early has nothing to look forward to in later, real life.


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