Friday, August 1, 2008

Bronxville Days, Part 8

Student self-esteem must have been a concern to educators even back in the 1950s, because all of a sudden "F" disappeared as an option for teachers marking up report cards at Public School No. 8. A's, B's, C's and D's were left untouched, but F's, which stood for "Failure" (or maybe "Flunky") had to go. F's were replaced with I's, which stood for "Improvement needed."

The year with Mrs. Macarber and Miss Goldstein was my second attempt at sixth grade. My first time through was with Miss Cynthia Heinitz. She handed us our report cards on the last day of school, I was expecting my grades to be poor. But I never thought my report card would have more I's on it than "Mississippi." I couldn't get up the courage to give the report card to my mother, so I tossed it behind a pile of lumber in our garage.
That evening, when asked to produce it, I tried several approaches: "We didn't get report cards this period"; "Oh, yeah, we got them, but I must have dropped it on my way home from school"; "It must have fallen out of my pocket when I was sitting on the lumber pile"; and finally, after retrieving it from the garage, "That doesn't mean I failed, it just means I need improvement."

Mrs. Reilly, the principal, summoned my parents to the school, and then they sat me down and told me what I dreaded to hear more than anything: "You have to repeat the sixth grade."

Left back. Left back! How could I ever look any of my friends in the face again? They tried to comfort me. "You've always been the youngest and smallest in your class, and now you'll be with kids more your own age," my father said. "You'll make new friends," my mother added. "You'll have already done the work, so it will be easier the second time around."

That night, my mother came into my room and sat on the edge of my bed, brushed the hair from my forehead, damp from a tear-soaked pillow. "You'll get over it," she said.

And I did.

1 comment:

Brant said...

Back in the '40s, my mother was considerably ahead of the students in her second-grade class, so she was promoted directly to fourth grade, where her teacher was ... her mother, my grandmother. My mother got straight A's in fourth grade, at which point my grandmother decided to hold her back so she would be with students her own age. My mother hated school (as did her son), and I don't think she ever forgave my grandmother for that figurative knife in the back.