Friday, September 5, 2014

" A strange thing happened on the first day of school"

The guy this happened to. Such a dunce... to this day.
   One of two things is true today that wasn’t true when I was a kid: Either teachers are so much kinder than they used to be, or summers are so torturous for kids that they are actually glad when school starts.

    I don’t know if you’re aware, but seven out of eight kids in this area are actually happy to go back to school. I know, because I asked all eight of them.

    The research for this back-to-school finding was carried out by Cindy and I  during our back-to-school week on our morning show. We inerviewed kids on our morning show and asked ‘em about teachers, homework, cafeteria food,Back to School favorite subjects… everything. 

    The kids who loved going to school acted surprised that I didn’t. That’s ‘cause they had never heard my back-to-school story. Some of you have, and those who haven’t are getting ready to.

    It was a warm September morning, my friend. The year ’56, back when nobody made you go to kindergarten. Unfortunately, you did have to go to first grade. I had gone to school the day before for first grade orientation. Mom had walked me to school and we found my classroom. I met my teacher who assigned me one half of a desk so I could unload my school supplies. Not a bad day. Unfortunately, the next day was the real thing.

    Dennis and I walked to Garden’s Elementary both of us carrying sack lunches containing tuna fish, half a pickle bleeding through wax paper, and a few shoestring potatoes. At Gardens we had to enter the building through one of three doors. Dennis was to enter the middle door, because he was in the fourth grade. Fifth and sixth entered the first door to the left, while first and second graders were to use the first door on the right. I know that now, but back then, I had no idea, ‘cause I wasn’t paying attention when Mom was leading me around during orientation.

If only Mom had stressed that I remember all that stuff. When the bell rang, Dennis told me that if I went in with him, I’d get in trouble. I had to go through Door #1. I was the only kid in school who had not picked up on the puzzle of the doors. I was near the last person to enter Door #1. I had no idea where my classroom was, so I followed the last couple of stragglers into a room.

I stayed in the room for a good chunk of the morning. I don’t remember ever answering the roll, but I apparently didn’t stand out. To this day I still have the ability to turn invisible in front of certain people.

Miss Wrongteacher, eventually found me out. She escorted me to the principal’s office, lecturing me all the way there. “Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you let someone help you? Are you even in the second grade? What’s your real name?”

It was the worst day of my life. I was the only kid at Garden’s Elementary who had to go to the principal’s office on the first day of school. (I believe my record stands.) The principal’s secretary was not the nicest of clericals. “Sit right there and behave until the principal has time to see you.”

Behave? Behave! “Don’t cry!” would’ve been more appropriate I used my invisible posture and became one with the chair. You have to really scrunch down to do that. Eventually I noticed an approaching shadow on the floor. It was the principal. And get this -- he knew my name.

“Hello, Mark. I’m Mr. Bozart. It’s been a pretty tough morning for you, hasn’t it?” A bubble formed on my lips as I tried to say the words, “Mostly, sir.”

It wasn’t two minutes before I realized that Mr. Bozart was the kindest person I had ever met. And, he was a principal! That man showed me all around the school. He took me to where the big kids classrooms were, where the restrooms were and even took me to the playground. He eventually looked down at my lunch sack, which by now had a small hole in the bottom where the leaking pickle juice had settled. “I’m hungry. Let’s eat lunch,” he said.

Mr. Bozart came out of the serving line with a tray that had an extra milk on it for me. We sat at our own table and he explained the story about the murals on the cafeteria wall. Garden’s Elementary had a huge mural of Disney characters. Mickey and Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Daffy… it was beautiful. Almost inviting. I had no idea what all Mr. Bozart was saying, ‘cause I was still pretty much shell-shocked.

After lunch, he took me to Mrs. Smith’s room, whispered something to her and then shook my hand and thanked me for spending time with him. If I could go back, I would hug that man’s leg and thank him for saving my life.

I would like to say that the rest of the school year was shear joy, but I’d be lying. The first grade was the worst year of my life. I cried every morning for weeks. Not a loud, screaming cry. just a silent sob. I hated school. I started out dumb and the feeling stayed with me all year… several years.

The only good thing about that “first day of school was Mr. Bozart. I’ll always believe that God whispered for him to be especially kind to the invisible kid slumped in the big wooden chair. I think God whispers stuff like that to some teachers all the time.

All of that whispering is apparently paying off, too, ‘cause seven out of eight kids today are actually glad to start back to school. Hey, the research is in.

End  &

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