Writing yesterday about teachers had me thinking about my elementary school career. I got to be one of those guinea pigs on whom, in the early '70s, they tried out their new cutting-edge teaching experiment. That one called “open-school” concept. Maybe it worked for some kids, but not me. We could pace ourselves and follow our own inspiration. My pace and inspiration led me in the opposite direction of the Three Rs. All I wanted was to draw and color, or paint using those giant brushes with tempera paints—which the aroma of today catapults me back into that open classroom filled with girls in ruffled cotton dresses and boys in button-up shirts and Buster Brown shoes. The concept of self-pacing allowed me to happily color all day, but sadly, it left me unable to read.
Some of you may remember the SRA reading system from the early ’70s, the one where you checked out reading cards—two-page, six- or seven-inch card stock with vibrantly colored headers—printed in bold type with amazing stories (so they told me), which you read, then answered questions about, to check comprehension. Once you succeeded with one, you moved on to the next in that section. Each section was grouped by color, and when you passed all the story cards in one section, you moved on to the next color. Each subsequent section got harder, with smaller print, longer stories, and more complex questions. But oh boy! That wasn’t all. You got to fill in your progress chart with a colored pencil that matched the section you finished. That soft lead pencil, in all its glorious pigment, filled in the squares beautifully—a solid, intense, kaleidoscopic tribute to the accomplishment.
The first section was Aqua. I got to know Aqua oh-so-well. I watched other children progress, using the Forest Green and Burgundy Red pencils, shading in their advancement, creating beautiful visual symbols of their proficiency and achievement. I so wanted to get my progress chart filled up with all that color. But I’d “read” a story, try the questions, have them checked, and the teacher would shake his head and send me back to try again. Once in a while, in some cruel tease of Fate, I got to fill in a square on my progress chart with Aqua, making me think that maybe, "This is it! I'm moving ahead!" Oh, I yearned to use the other colors. Any other color. I ached to move out of Aqua. It was a physical pain, I so badly wanted to get my hands on those rich, deep hues.
But alas, it was not to be. Not once in all my tenure as an elementary student did I ever move out of Aqua. I was forever stuck, frozen, incarcerated in Aqua.
Aqua is my niece’s favorite color, and one of my violin student's, and a woman I know, so it can’t be all that bad. Right? At least one shouldn’t think so. But if I ever have to choose from a group of items that come in multiple colors, say flowers, cards, paper, PENCILS, you can bet your sweet color wheel, I won't be choosing Aqua!
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