Kindergarten: 1972, Princess Margaret Elementary School, Winnipeg, MB. Teacher: Mrs. MacIntyre.
This was the age of full-day kindergarten, complete with blackboards, reading time, nap time, arts and crafts. I remember lots of the basics – letters, numbers, chalkboard, colours, and construction paper. For those last two, I have one especially clear memory – frustration. We had had a visit from a police officer – being safe, look both ways before crossing the street, etc. – and afterwards had the task of making a traffic light with construction paper (a bit of an odd item, really, since none of us would start driving for another 11 years).
As you may be able to tell from its ragged edge, I had some trouble with the yellow circle. I had somehow ended up with a pair of left-handed scissors for that circle (something I only figured out later in life when I learned there actually was such a thing). I kept at it for a long time – trying to cut the paper, but it kept bending rather than cutting. To 5-year-old me, it was frustrating to the point of tears. Why wouldn’t they work? By this point, all the other kids had finished, and had moved on to nap time, but I was still at the big round table, with my scissors and glue and scraps of paper. Eventually, I got them to work (I don’t remember how), and the then finished the green one (I must have changed scissors). I always remember that feeling of frustration, but also the need to keep at it – to make it work, to finish. Stubbornness…I mean, perseverance began early.
I also remember my teacher, Mrs. MacIntyre, very clearly; at least, I think I do. I remember short hair, horn-rimmed glasses, and lots of plaid flannel and wool sweaters; something of a cross between my grandmothers and my great-grandmother. And the classroom: lots of windows, little cubby-holes for our “things”, books everywhere, and a small army of kids.
My troubles with scissors clearly didn’t hold me back: I graduated.
Grade 1: 1973, Princess Margaret Elementary School, Winnipeg, MB. Teacher: Mrs. Hoey.
My main memory about Grade 1 also involves the colours red, yellow and green. We were assigned a picture like this, with the spaces labelled red, yellow and green. The task was to read the word, and then colour the picture accordingly. This was one of several just like it, and I quickly completed it, the reading presenting me no trouble as I’d learned to read over the previous summer. Mrs. Hoey noted this, and I was summoned to the principal’s office. After a few days of reading and comprehension testing, my Grade 1 career was over – I was moved into Grade 2.
It happened in a blur to 6-year-old me, but the repercussions of that advancement have figured prominently throughout my life. First and foremost has been making me younger than my classmates for the rest of my academic career. While not a real hinderance to anything (except when it was time to get a drivers licence), it was something that distinguished me as different, which is not something kids really strive for in school – being like everyone else is usually the goal. In high school, I was blessed with finding other similarly youth-challenged girls, who became life-long friends. So there was definitely a silver lining. That, and I’m the last of my cohort to become “a woman of a certain age”. But being slightly younger than others, or than others expect, has been a hallmark of me. And all because I could read, “red, yellow, green”.
Another has been the more of a handicap: my horrible handwriting. But more on that in Grade 2.