Culture shock and the third grade

I don’t remember my third grade teacher’s name, and I no longer have the year books from that particular school to go check. I did third grade twice, though not because I failed the year or something tragic like that (tragic because it would have resulted in my mother actually killing me and being sentenced to death – since we lived in Texas). I repeated the third grade because I started school a year (or possibly two, it was a British school so things were a little different) early, we moved to the US from Italy in January, right smack in the middle of the fourth grade, and when my mom enrolled me in school I would have been at the youngest by far in my class, so I repeated the third grade, where I was still the youngest in my class but only by a few months, and could concentrate on getting over the culture shock rather than the actual school work. Incidentally, one of my first memories of America was sitting in the principal’s office taking a test to see where I measured up academically and one of the questions was about American coins, how much a nickel, a dime and a quarter where or something like that, and I had just seen a sesame street episode that morning that explained the whole thing to me (thank you PBS). I was also thoroughly confused by lockers, we didn’t have them in my old school and when the principal asked me if I needed to use the restroom (other completely foreign word to me then) I looked down the hall and all I noticed was the long rows of little doors and couldn’t figure out how on earth Americans went to the bathroom.

Anyway, back to my third grade teacher, I had a really hard time that year because I was different. I had a weird (British) accent, my parents had enrolled me in a (of all the ridiculous things) Baptist private school – I didn’t even know what “Baptist” meant, a lot of things were strange to me – like pb&j sandwiches. I had never learned cursive, rarely used a ballpoint pen, or a pencil since we used a fountain pen for everything at my old school and I had learned division the European way.

One day I get to class, and every kid in the whole entire school was wearing cowboy/cowgirl outfits, this completely shocked me… it was Go Texan Day, and there I was, in my regular clothes. I was so upset I ran to the teacher and buried my face in her navy blue skirt and she hugged me. Teachers didn’t hug at the British school I went to in Italy. She then explained to me what was going on, put a cowboy hat on my head and a bandana around my neck and there I was, a cowgirl, though without the boots.

It’s not a big deal, stuff like this happens daily to kids, it’s how they learn, we went to the gym and square-danced and it was all better, but even though I don’t remember her name, I will never forget her face and how she hugged me. Teachers are important. Teachers make a difference.

Mama’s Losin’ It