Monday, October 12, 2009

The One In Which She Longs For Fifth Grade

This is what our typical dinner banter consists of:

The little one: "I played with Angie at recess and at lunch - I ate only 1/2 of my semi healthy twisted fruit snack thingy you got at Whole Foods because I saw a rolly-polly bug on the sidewalk and tried to save it from being squished by some smelly boys. And next time? Next time - can I tell you what kind of sammich I want to have because I like bologna sammiches with cheese and lettuce. Oh, and I learned the letter of the day was Q.. Queenie Quail - - kwa, kwa, kwa. And I can't remember the rest although someone brought in a real live dead skeleton and did you know that cartiledge is not bones but not flesh? And did you know that mama whales have nipples that feed their babies from ? Had you ever seen a whale boobie , mom? "

The big one: { blink, blink}.

Me and Hubby: "So, Em - how was your day. What did you learn today?"

She should be ready for this by now. 180 days a year for the past 5 years....we've done the same thing. You can just sense her squirming to come up with something academically significant.

The big one: "Well, I went into class. I hung my backpack up on the hook. We switched desks today. And I got a jolly rancher for turning in my field trip permission slip."

Me and Hubby: {blink, blink}

{{flashback to suburbia circa 1975- when a 'Nut Free' lunch table at school actually meant that just girls sat there.}}

If you asked me, 5th grade was the best. A most influential year for me education-wise, I had the best teacher I have ever had in my 17 year educational career in 5th grade. Jack Sughrue - he was a huge Beatles fan and would blast every Beatles album ever made on the reel t0 reel player. We made our own cribbage boards (out of real wood , and I mean we sanded and stained them and pounded nails into them to make the holes) and played tournaments to learn math and strategy. We wrote screenplays and made 8mm full length films. He read us the entire Chronicles of Narnia...out loud and with different voices and mood lighting. He was the most influential teacher I have ever had in my life - and I've had some great teachers. He was someone who made learning and the thirst for knowledge COOL. And on rainy days (and there were many in Massachusetts) we'd receive visits from "spirits of the great poets," who were kids under sheets reading poetry with flashlights. And the guy would 4-square your DOORS off. I loved his class.

He had the ubiquitous Mr . Rodgers' sweater with the suede elbow patches and sported a cheezy porn star moustache and had wildy crazy hippy hair. We learned so much, but we didn't know we were learning. I remember telling my {wonderful} dad that I was not going to be ready for 6th grade. We hadn't done anything in 5th grade!! Boy was I wrong. 6th grade teachers loved having Mr. Shugrue's former students. We were critical thinkers at the tender age of 12. He made us that way.

In fact, when I was a sophmore in High School, I went back to my 5th grade class and was his student teacher. And I didn't just do it for the extra credit . Okay, maybe it was a little bit for the two day a week early release - but really I went back to him to let him know how much I had learned from him. In December of 1980, I accompanied Jack Sughrue and his then 5th grade class on a museum field trip. He and I sat in first seat on the school bus. True to form, the Beatles were playing on the static-y radio station. Then we heard it. We heard from the deejay that John Lennon had been gunned down. I felt Mr. Shugrue's body tense against the naugahyde seat cover. He squeezed my hand and made no effort to hold back the tears. Wow. Since I am old, but not that old - this was my 'where were you when Kennedy was shot' moment. Indelibly engrained on my mind...not unlike when Nixon resigned, when Luke and Laura got married, when the hostages were freed from Iran, 9/11...

I don't know why I am thinking about him so much today. So much so that all these years later - I just did a Google search for him. I went to and facebook to look for him. Maybe I'm just all nostalgic because my daughter is in 5th grade and I long for her to have a teacher who will be as memorable and important to her as Mr. Sugh rue was to me.

And maybe I am bringing this all up because I remember the conversations at my 1975 dinner table with my family. And just hoping that some tomorrow night from now...Emily will come to me to tell me that she's not ready for 6th grade because she had too much fun in 5th grade to have ever learned anything.

And I'll start humming 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' and smile.


Anonymous said...

Wow. What an awesome heartfelt post. Gave me chills. Dinner table conversations circa 1975 - I had them too.

How amazing that you had that kind of teacher. That he had that much of an impact on you. I did not have ONE teacher in my entire career who was as memorable as he was to you. What a gift.

Now that you describe this kind of teacher, it makes me sad to think how I missed out. And yeah, I hope my kids have someone like him too.

Great post. Let us know if you find him.

Anonymous said...

All I really remember about our dinner table in the seventies was eating yellow crayon shavings because I thought they were cheese.

Your memories are much warmer and more tasty. Nice one.

for a different kind of girl said...

What a great post. I love when there is that *one* teacher who really grabs our attention and we remember them. I have to think that is an inspiring part of their job, you know?

A few years ago, when I was still working at a newspaper, I was up front when a man came in wanting to put a classified ad in inviting friends to an open house for his sister, who was retiring from a career in eduction. I quickly learned he was the brother of my former kindergarten teacher! After visiting with him, I went back in the newsroom and pounded out a column about her and my memories from that long ago time. He read it later that week when it was published, and invited me to come and surprise his sister, my former teacher, by reading it aloud at the retirement open house. I was thrilled! Also, I was so nervous and so happy for her that I was almost in tears while reading it!

I've had other teachers, of course, but she really impacted me from an early age, and I always hope, too, that my kids will have a teacher who will do the same for them.

(p.s. - here's hoping your daughter doesn't learn what a whale penis is called for awhile yet! Ha!)

Aunt Becky said...

I always wished for family dinners like that. We never had those. Ever.

Justine said...

Oh Swirly, I just loved every word of this post! Your Mr. Sugh sounds like a WONDERFUL teacher, a wonderful person! I'm so glad he had such a positive effect on your life. And the fun things he did to make you guys learn!

I don't remember much about 5th grade except that I had this weird guy teacher that always wore white pants you could see through. NOT pretty.

Justine :o )

Anonymous said...

You are an excellent writer. It is a joy to read about your life with the girls. Love, Fancy Nancy

Bejewell said...

The only thing I really remember of 5th grade is the boys lining up at the front of the class during the last ten minutes of the day to take turns showing off their breakdancing skillz. Which were really NOT all that.

My most awesome remember-forver teacher experience didn't come until later -- junior year in high school, Coach Faseler -- the soccer coach but also a bad ass ENglish teacher who first introduced me to symbolism. I can still hear him now, mid-lesson -- "and what did the feather REALLY mean, do you think... SYMMMMBOLISM FAAAAANNNNS?"

The Big Sister's day will come.

JenJen said...

You are so sweet. I just love reading you posts.
We all have those moments, and teachers in our heads, don't we? Thanks for helping me trigger my memory, hon.

You Missed Your Calling said...

I had one teacher like that also -- she was remarkable -- the day after John Lennon was shot, she brought in all her Beatles records and we listened to them all day. Not sure that would work today with No Child Left Behind.
Our family dinners consisted of the family staring at Peter Jennings on the b/w tv in the kitchen, which was fine because I didn't want to talk with my parents anyways.

Jodi said...

IMO, anyone who got Mr. Shugrue as a teacher was sooo lucky. I was cursed with Ms. DeRico. But he was right next door. I remember one day he opened up the door between the classrooms and said, "Today is Command Day... March 4th".
And somehow we got to make the cribbage boards, too, cuz I had one. But I always felt like I missed out. I don't remember our 1975 dinner conversations. Mostly my dad was yelling cuz one of the four of us inevitably dumped a glass of milk or was secretly feeding Taffy from the table. *Sigh* Yep those were the days. GREAT post!

Anonymous said...

I had a handful of amazing teachers as well that I will never forget. I used to be a teacher. I used to think that I would make a difference like that. But unfortunately the district I was teaching in was impossible. I spent my days chasing emotionally disturbed 9th graders from the inner city around the hallways. I was merely a babysitter with a lot of paperwork to do. Hence...why I'm a nanny.

Anonymous said...

I loved having teachers like that. My grade 11 chemistry teacher was quite similar - he would have the craziest, most sarcastic stories. We even listened to Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice baby" while learning our I.C.E. tables. That guy instilled my love of chemistry (which unfortunately my 2nd year organic chemistry prof ripped from me.)

Savvy Sassy Moms said...

Every night when we sit down to eat dinner we ask our kids "How was your day today?" And so now even when we sit down at breakfast my son (age 3) will even say "How was your day today?" It is soooo cute. My favorite teacher was Miss Nelson, 2nd grade, and i can still remember exactly what she looked like. Great Post:)
It's your new frien - SavvySassyMoms said...

My fifth grade teacher was a guy, too. He had a long, blond mullet and played in a band that came in for the fifth grade dance every spring. He was AWE.Some.

Claremont First Ward said...

Hey......great minds think alike. I wrote about a teacher today too. Do you want me to search for him on I have a membership. My 5th grade teacher was phenomenal as well. I'm pretty sure he died though. LOVED 5th grade.

Unknown said...

There is nothing like that ONE teacher... the one who made all the difference.

I had 2 of them. Mrs. Moersch and Mr. Paulsen. Mrs. Moersch even came to my wedding.

And I had to laugh at the recounting of the day in school, first because it sounds a big like reading a Junie B Jones book, and second because that's EXACTLY the way it goes down in my house as well.