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Thoughts For Thursday: 10 Bad Elementary School Memories

May 12, 2011 · 168 comments

in Thoughts For Thursday

Last night, I was at my youngest son’s choir performance at school when I suddenly had a memory flash from my grade school days. I decided at that moment I had to write a post about those memories.  Maybe writing these recollections down will purge them from my brain, but I doubt it…

So here are 10 bad memories from my grade school years:

  1. Falling down the fire escape: I think I was 10 years old, and the fire alarm went off.  Our classroom had a fire escape just outside one of the doors, so we got to use the cool fire escape for drills.  Well, I was trotting down the stairs and slipped.  Next thing I know, I am bouncing down the fire escape stairs.  It was quite embarrassing, but also pretty darn painful.
  2. The Felt Board: My friend and I were working on fractions in third grade using a felt board where we could attach different felt shapes and numbers to.  I don’t know what we did wrong, but the teacher ran over to us and said “It will be a cold day in hell before you two can use the felt board again”.    I still love that quote.  Plus, she was right- I still haven’t used a felt board, and it has been 35 years since the incident.  I wonder, if hell does suddenly become chilly, will a felt board suddenly show up with geometric shapes for me to apply?
  3. The Bathroom: I was in kindergarten, and there was a fire drill.  (Our school obviously loved fire drills.)  There was a little bathroom inside the classroom, and I was in it when the alarm went off.  I panicked and couldn’t open the big door to get out of the bathroom.  I finally did get out, but the class was already gone and I had to catch up to all the kids.  I was so scared.
  4. The Suspension: I was in 6th grade, and the lunch lady monitoring our class barely spoke English.  I was sitting at my desk taking apart my new mechanical pencil, and ended up with lead all my fingers.  I asked if I could run to the bathroom to wash my hands, and I thought she said yes.  I went to the girl’s bathroom, and a friend of mine and two boys also showed up in the bathroom.  I was honestly just washing my hands, but that same lunch lady came in and found the four of us in the bathroom.  We all got sent to the principal’s office and got suspended.  The lunch lady said she never gave me permission to leave the classroom.  If that were the case, why did she let me leave?  She saw me go and didn’t say a word.  I still think she is a liar.  At least the principal let me finish my pudding before sending me home.
  5. Head Down, Face Covered: The common punishment for bad behavior was to make the students put their heads on their desk/table, face down.  I used to hate that punishment because quite often, one of the teachers would patrol around the classroom to make sure you hadn’t positioned yourself so that your face was down, but with just your forehead on the desk.  (Made breathing much easier when your face wasn’t flush against the desk.)  If this teacher saw you just had your forehead on the desk, he would kick your chair in, which would result in smashing your nose against the table, and it would scare you half to death.  One day we had this punishment repeatedly.  I peeked my head up and saw the teacher just sitting there reading “The Thorn Birds”.  I really think she issued this punishment just so she could read.
  6. Choir: I hated choir.  I have never been a good singer, and I wasn’t a fan of changing pitch.  As stupid as this sounds, I thought taking a high or low note meant you were being fake, like you weren’t using your own voice.  So, I just sang flatly with my normal voice.  One day, I was riding in the car with some friends, and everyone was singing, including me.  The mom driving the car turned around and said to me “you really have a terrible voice”.  That was the last time I ever sang in public again.  Well, I have sung in front of my kids, but not much since they have gotten older.
  7. Milk With Paper Straws: In kindergarten, we got a snack break every day.  Part of that snack was we would each get a little carton of milk.  This milk was always slightly warm, and you had to drink it with this little paper straw that got all soggy instantly.  I can still almost taste that milk in my mind, and the thought makes my stomach churn.
  8. Glasses: I ended up getting eyeglasses right before picture day in kindergarten.  I was the only kid with glasses, and glasses were not cool at all back in 1972.  What was awful besides the constant teasing is that I broke my glasses quite frequently.  (They were even chopped up by a lawn mower once.)  Since there was no such thing as ‘one hour glasses’, you had to wait at least a week for new glasses to be made  at whatever magical place manufactured them.  During those weeks that I didn’t have good eyesight, I would have to sit at a desk right next to the board.  I much preferred sitting in the back of the class, where I could get away with talking a little bit easier.
  9. Tornado Drills: I loved tornado watches as  a kid.  Whenever there was a tornado watch, the kids would all get sent home, which is kind of insane now that I think about it.   The weather would be so nice and warm, I have great memories of walking home feeling so free during tornado watches.  Tornado Warnings were a bummer though, as were tornado drills.  Our school was a giant old brick building.  When there was a tornado warning, you would get sent down to the basement, sit on the floor, and contort yourself into a position that would protect your head.  It was so dirty in that basement, plus the boiler was right there.  I never felt safe near that boiler, and I always hoped a tornado wouldn’t come through and make that boiler explode.
  10. Anything To Do With Chalkboards: I hate chalk, and I hate chalkboards.  Obviously, everyone hates the nails on the chalkboard thing.  However, I don’t like the smell of chalk at all.  Smacking those erasers to get the chalk out was an awful task.  Life got much better when the school bought a little machine you could put the eraser on and it would suck the chalk out of it.  What I disliked even more was washing the chalkboard with a bucket of water and a sponge.  I was always too short to reach the top, and I despised the smell of water and chalk together.  I still get chills thinking about that.

I could go on and on about elementary school memories.  In a later post, I will share my good memories of elementary school. (Unless you tell me in the comments that you don’t care and you don’t want to hear about my memories anymore.)

What about you, do you have any interesting memories from grade school?

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Dianna May 12, 2011 at 6:55 am

I am sitting here chuckling but also amazed that you overcame all of that (and more) to be so successful. 🙂 The Felt Board is the best. What on earth did the teacher think you were doing? Glad that you were able to rise above all of the craziness. And I think that you should sing as loud and as often as you want to!

Oh, I have story about getting in trouble for going to the restroom without permission except I was in 1st grade, there was a nun involved and I was branded as a ‘troublemaker’ for it on my report cards for the entire year. (She said she gave someone behind me permission, not me.) Needless to say, I was sent to public school the next year. Suspension seems a little harsh to me!


Kris May 12, 2011 at 11:04 pm

I remember you were the troublemaker in your younger years, and I could never picture it. That nun must have been crazy.


Nicole May 12, 2011 at 7:44 am

That chair kicking thing is insane.

In third grade I pulled down a boy’s pants after he kicked me in he shins. There was much crying on both sides.


Kris May 12, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Nicole- that boy needed a belt! I bet he was horrified, but he deserved it. Good job!


First Gen American May 12, 2011 at 8:17 am

My worst memory was when it was show and tell day and they were passing around some kind of seed around the class. I though my classmate was sharing some candy and I tried to eat it. I quickly realized it wasn’t candy but it was too late because a couple of kids saw me do it and didn’t let up how dumb I was.

Another thing I’ll always remember is that we were always scolded for leaning back on our chairs on two legs. The teacher always would say we were going to fall and get hurt. Well, there was a fat kid at the back of the class and he was leaning back on the chair as usual and all of a sudden we heard a thunderous noise. Well, the chair had snapped under his weight and he had broken it to pieces. I still feel so bad for him because there was no way hiding what just happened and why.


Kris May 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Poor kid that fell in his chair! The teacher was probably warning everyone with him in mind.

I hated show and tell. I will have to add that to any follow up post I write. I am glad you didn’t get sick from eating the ‘candy’.


Husband of Everyday Tips May 12, 2011 at 8:47 am

I was always one of the smaller kids in the class and one fall I went back to school and the art teacher announced in front of the entire class that I “hadn’t grown a bit over the summer”. Doesn’t sound too bad right now, but back then it was quite a bummer.

The Felt Board is awesome – maybe that could be an anniversary gift?


Kris May 12, 2011 at 11:02 pm

I would love a felt board for an anniversary present. However, I am not sure I will be allowed to use it.


Crystal @ BFS May 12, 2011 at 10:57 am

That mother was just a bad person! Singing is a feel good activity that should be fun for everyone!!!

My worst elementary school memory was being excused to go to the bathroom, but when I was walking by the boy’s bathroom to get to the door of the girl’s bathroom, I was hit by a pee stream that squirted right out the open door. Apparently two boys were having a contest to see who could pee the furthest and I was collateral damage…yuck…


Kris May 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm

BFS, that is an awful story!!

I still think of that mean mom every time I sing, even when I am alone. She was one of the crabbiest moms ever.


Crystal @ BFS May 13, 2011 at 11:58 am

I’d sing louder just to beat up the memory of her, lol. 🙂


Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter May 12, 2011 at 10:58 am

I don’t really have any interesting stories, more sad ones. I was really bullied growing up and primary and middle school were the worst. In fact, I think my school years of my life were the worst. I couldn’t wait to be an adult and get on with my life. Things are so much better now.


Kris May 12, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Miss T, that is awful that you had such a bad experience growing up in school. I am so glad that things are working out better for you now.


krantcents May 12, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Those stories sound traumatic, although thankfully not long lasting. Those experiences seem to affect us more than they should. The good news is chalk boards are almost non existent in (Los Angeles) classrooms. White boards and erasable markers are the norm.


Kris May 12, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Krantcents, our school district was so ‘unique’, I could write an infinite amount of posts about my experiences.

I was just at a local college this past weekend and I was surprised that all the classrooms still had chalkboards. They are so awful.


Kaycee May 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm

WTH? I live in Michigan and we NEVER got sent home because of a tornado. And in elementary school, I lived across the street….kind of.


Kris May 12, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Kaycee, we didn’t get to go home during tornado warnings, just tornado watches. It was great!!!!


MoneyCone May 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Nails on chalkboard should be classified as torture!!


Kris May 12, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Yaaaaaa, I don’t even want to think about that!


Karen Ho Fatt@best fire pit reviews May 13, 2011 at 1:35 am

Bad Memories? Well getting smacked on the head with rulers, getting pinched by teachers and getting beat up first day of school in the girl’s bathroom by other toddlers, watching the nuns beat up the kids for crying on the first day of school. Not a helluva lot of fun!


Kris May 13, 2011 at 9:20 am

Karen- your stories are awful! Did you stay at that school a long time?

Teachers could never get away with that abuse nowadays.


Squirrelers May 13, 2011 at 2:02 am

I have some really good memories, but one that comes to mind is me teasing some kid (the kid who got picked on by everyone) even though I was the type who left those kids alone. I always felt bad for them.

Anyway, one day in 3rd grade I teased the kid and ran away as he chased me. It was after school and my mom was waiting in the drive up as she was picking me up that day. I sprinted to the car and got in just in time before the kid got to me. I turned and saw the hurt look in his face, as he must have thought I was one of the “good kids” that never teased him, but this time I did.

So, my Mom asked me what the heck was going on. I told her, and she made me get out of the car and apologize to him.

I clearly haven’t forgotten this, 30+ years later, and I never picked on anybody again. It was a good lesson learned!


Kris May 13, 2011 at 9:19 am

Oh Squirrel, I feel so bad for you. I think just about everyone picked on someone else at some point in their lives. Many people learn from it (like you), and the others just become bigger bullies.

I am very glad you apologized to him. Did you become friends with him later?


Squirrelers May 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm

The kid moved away. I still remember him. Good natured guy, just misfit for the school I guess.

I also recall him getting beat up badly at recess by a kid a year or two older. He was pinned down and the other kid was on top just pounding away at him hard with closed fists. He was terrorized and screaming for the bully to stop, and a few other thugs were standing around laughing cheering on the bully to crush him. All of the rest of us at recess were standing watching in shock. It was a sad and horrific sight, and I don’t recall the bully getting any big punishment. The parents should have raised all he** and authorities should have been called.

Afterward there was lots of blood on his face and the school nurse had to help him get up. He and his family ended up moving away at the end of that year.

So, I didn’t become friends with him I guess because I didn’t want to somehow get roped into the same fate. Not there would have been a reason to have that happen, but when you’re a kid you think differently. The mindset of a kid, I suppose, and maybe it was the wisest thing to do at the time!

Oh by the way, I actually grew up in a “safe” suburban area with very little crime and schools with a really good reputation. Go figure!


No Debt MBA May 13, 2011 at 11:41 am

I was in a new school and I remember how one girl in the class invited everyone in the class except me to her birthday party. I didn’t say anything but when they were all discussing it on one side of the room and I was at my desk she came over to say “Sorry, my mom said I couldn’t invite too many kids.” Ouch. All of my parties are open invitation – the more the merrier.

I have to say I’m not a big fan of the whiteboard upgrade – they become impossible to get clean after only a year or two of heavy use.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:59 pm

That is such a sad story (that you were left out of the party). I bet your mom wanted to smack that child’s mom. (at least I want to)

I agree with you about the whiteboards. If you use black, forget it. However, not a fan of chalkboards either. Someone needs to invent a better solution.


Carol May 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Great post – but I am biased since I experienced most of those things with you!


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:57 pm

We did have a good time though, didn’t we?

Now if I could only find a bean bag chair without pencil holes in it…


Deidre May 15, 2011 at 1:13 am

Kris…great post as always. I have so many bad memories of elementary school. One of them was when I was beat up by some boys who chased me down the block after school, I think I was in 3rd/4th grade. They had the metal square lunch boxes and I had welts & bruises on my head for a couple of weeks afterward.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Deidre, that is a horrible story! What ever happened to those boys? Did they become adult bullies? Did they ever apologize? I am so sorry that happened!


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