I did that old-person-thing today, where you see a picture of a child on the first day of fourth grade and think, “wasn’t she just a baby?” And before Tevye could get to the chorus of Sunrise, Sunset, I also was in fourth grade.
Mr. Perryman walked around with a yardstick that he tapped on the corner of your desk. He was too tall to bend down. That was the year I learned that for the rest of my life, I would be the one doing the serious part of group work while the others did the fun part, thanks to his assignment of Spindletop. And I am pretty sure we did a puppet show about a séance. In fourth grade. My sticker book got stolen, and I still remember To This Day Who Did It. But, I also shared in the sinning by reading the back of a book, dressing up in my lavender party frock, and putting on a show. I mean, “book report”. I got an A+, of course. I failed spelling, also of course. I fell in love with Brazil in geography and promised myself I would go when I turned 50. I didn’t get to hold the baby chicken we had hatched because Someone dropped the feathery little thing while passing it around and it died and we cried. I was the uvula in the Becky the Hamburger play for which I wore a wrap-around jean skirt and held a stop sign. I had a hard time keeping that skirt wrapped around. We had a logic puzzle class, the kind where you cross off spaces of the rows and columns:
Mr. Green was not sitting to the left or right of Mrs. Peters, but was sitting directly across from Mr. Thomas’s wife. My favorite part was when I got to write on the overhead. That was the year I blistered from too much fun in the sun at Nikki and Kelly’s pool. And also when I scraped my knee so bad the scar still sometimes puffs up. Nikki loved the colors blue and yellow. She was my best friend. And I was the mother in the play about immigrants coming to America. And it snowed that year. A good ‘ole Texas blizzard.
Soap Bubbles by Foto Rieth
The next year I would have a crush, learn what it means to be embarrassed, and learn how to stand up for what is right. So there is a part of me that cherishes fourth grade as being the end of my child-childhood… the last year before any adolescence started to creep in.
And now I am brought to the present, to the fourth graders in our school, in whom I pour love and prayers and brain energy. What will they remember about this year? What will take hold?
Our fourth graders are an anomaly when it comes to schools. They were the first group of students, so they will always be the oldest. And so they seem so very old. And our expectations are high. And it is easy to forget that they are only fourth graders. Well, to be truthful, it's hard to remember that they are just kids.... little kids who will have tender moments over sad things. Who will have best friends. Who will experience things that drive them the rest of their lives. They will earn their scars and their stripes. And they will be kids. But...
But I was wrong. They will not be just kids. They will be human.
Lord, help me remember that.