Monday, March 30, 2009

An Elementary Retrospective - First Grade

First Grade

Teacher: Mrs. Floyd.

I can still remember going home for lunch the first day, over the top excited because I’d learned to read the word “Oh.”

And getting kept after school that afternoon for talking.

Mrs. Floyd was also big on punctuality. I always got to school on time, Mom saw to that, but when winter came, I had problems getting out of my snow pants. Since we wore dresses to school regardless of the season, to keep our spindly legs from turning into scrawny icicles, we also donned thick wool coats with matching hats and pants.

Beside each classroom was a cloakroom, a narrow hallway lined with rows of hooks. I remember Mrs. Floyd sitting in that cloakroom, drilling me on how to unsnap my hat, unbutton my coat and shimmy out of those pants (which meant removing my saddle shoes and then retying them) in what she considered to be a reasonable amount of time.

We saw a lot of the janitor that year, because Peter Nunn kept peeing his pants. Also, when Vicki Williams barfed. Before mopping it up, the janitor would sprinkle on deodorizer, flakes that looked just like the peppers in the jars on the table at Pizza Hut restaurants.

I’ve never been able to bring myself to put those things on my food.

We learned to read about Dick, Sally and Jane from this giant book that sat on the floor and, according to my recollection, was shoulder-height to a first-grader. Mrs. Floyd would hand each of us the pointer, and we’d take turns tracing it along the words beneath the pictures of the Terrible Trio doing such things as rescuing Puff, their cat, from a tree, or dissuading Spot, their dog, from chasing Puff. Never a dull moment at that house. (Notice how Jane, even though she's second oldest, gets third billing? Shades of Jan Brady.)

I’ve heard a lot of criticism of DS&J over the years, but my main memory is just being thrilled to learn to read. My sister, Rita, is 16-months older than I am, and it killed me when she started school. I pleaded to go with her. When Mom said I was too young, they wouldn’t let me attend, I begged for a chance to plead my case to the powers-that-were.

“Just let me talk to them,” I said. “I know I can convince them.”

Apparently, my belief in my powers of persuasion is a life-long delusion.


  1. Hello. My name is Steven, and I'm a Raisin Chronicles addict.

    No one time travels like Jeanne!

    As I prepare to go off to work,I realize that my office is truly an extension of the elementary school experience!

  2. God - that picture brings back memories. I'm sure that was my first reading book!

  3. I definitley remember Dick and Jane, but I'm a little fuzzy on Sally. Also - we spent a lot of time talking about their dog spot.

    Love the stories.

  4. I don't remember Dick and Jane - I think we had Janet and John in England...
    But oh my, have you brought back some memories - getting changed 'fast enough' for the teacher, that pink deodorising sawdust always present in one corridor or another, the excitement of reading my first word and the feelings of inferiority when my friends shouted out the word on the cards faster than I did.
    Thanks for the memories, Jeanne! x

  5. Boy did you just massage some brain matter back to life in the food obsessed chef! 'peppers in the jars on the table at Pizza Hut restaurants.' Now I will not be able to use them without this memory, lol

    Love it as usual!

  6. Read the same books- but my older sister would come home and teach me to read! By 1st grade they had created a reading group for three of us that were far ahead of the rest of the class...It wasn't easy being named "Dickie" when learning through Dick and Jane..

  7. I learned to read with Dick and Jane and Spot and I'm trying to remember a Sally. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  8. Thank you for that trip down memory lane. . .

    This is Spot. See Spot go. . .

  9. See Spot run! Run, Spot, run!!!
    Those "readers" will live forever in my mind. I do remember Sally, and Tim, Sally's teddy bear...

  10. All dresses.. did you grow up in Amish country?

    Wow, you were that intent to go to school.. impressive. I think they had to drag me, kicking and screaming.

    I do remember Dick and Jane, and I remember thinking there was just something .. a little suspicious about that family.

  11. your post brought back some faded memories :)
    wish i was that age again!

  12. You have a great memory!! Though I guess some memories like the peeing and barfing stay on!

  13. "Oh", Dear.

    Big time flashback for me, reading this post.It's incredible sometimes how we can never remember certain details of our childhood, but then you see an object, see a color, experience a smell, and all those insipid details come rushing back.

    Snowpants aside, and being snow bundled to within an inch of my life, one of the most embarrassing things I experienced as a child was "Show & Tell".

    I ran home for lunch, because I forgot to bring in something for Show & Tell later that afternoon. And I thought, Mom will have something fantastic for me to show my classmates!

    In her haste, and I was running out the door to get back to school before the end-lunch bell rang, she shoved a suitcase lock into my hand and said, "show that".

    What the heck was I gonna do with a suitcase lock? I don't remember if I actually presented it at S&T or not, but part of me wants to believe I did, and that everyone just stared at me and thought, "what the what?" Today, I read that response as, "certifiable".

  14. I loved Elementary School. I even liked school lunch. Thanks for the memories. A lot of things have changed since then. There didn't used to be cops assigned to schools, just staunch teachers with rulers to keep the peace.

  15. Wonder what that stuff was they used on the floor when kids puked?
    Forgot all about that.

    Also my first grade teacher, Sr.Madonna called the cloak room "The Roberie"(Sp?)
    I never heard of anyone else but people who went to St. Mary's refer to it as that.

    Love your blog.

  16. We have Bob books now - and a ton of others. But I LOVE the look on the kids faces when they read. LOVE IT.

  17. I can barely remember where I put my keys, you are an inspiration, yet again!

  18. I am with Steven G - I dont think we ever get out of the school yard. And like you, I remember my elementary (called primary here)school days clearly. It bought it all back. Dick and Jane, he he. Did anyone have those cuisinare coloured rods to learn to count? High school I have less memories of as I had many distractions by then...

  19. Loved those reading books. Dont forget Sallys teddy bear Tim. Loved Spot cuz that was our dogs name too. And my name Janet is like Jane.
    I hated the pants we wore all winter under our dresses! For some reason we called them leggings. Was that just an Indiana term?
    Thanks for the memories.

  20. I remember the barf-sprinkle. It smelled like Doritos! Gross!

  21. Vomit sprinkle - good times! I'd call your powers of persuasion a life-long gift!

  22. what a great great line ' i KNOW i can convince them'


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