As promised, my traumatic 3rd grade ghost story. No, it’s not exactly a story about a ghost. Sorry to disappoint you. It’s a story about a ghost story I wrote, and when I think of 3rd grade, it’s the first thing that comes to mind.
The second thing is how the teacher punished all of us for one student’s disobedience by making us sit in at lunch one day. She sat on a stool in the front of the room, slowly ate her lunch while talking about it, applied her lipstick, and then told us its bad for our circulation to sit cross-legged.
The third thing I remember is how she wouldn’t let me go home for lunch. Since 1st grade (we didn’t have lunch in kindergarten because we only attended for half a day), I went home. My mom walked the two blocks to school to pick me up. I got to eat a warm meal while watching the Wizard of Oz movie (yes, everyday). Those are my fondest memories. This 3rd grade teacher said it was wrong of my mom to do that and tried to forbid it. I remember sitting in the cafeteria feeling miserable because I had to eat a cold sandwich with the mustard soaked into the bread. How does that compare to scrambled eggs or a plate of spaghetti? My mom spoke to the principal and he agreed it was fine for her to do that for me. After that, the teacher refused to say a single word to my mother, even when she came to pick me up at the end of the day.
Let me go back to that first thing, the ghost story. We needed to write a story for Halloween. It was a one-page thing, pasted to orange construction paper, and meant to hang on the wall for the Halloween party, so the parents could enjoy them. I loved to read, and even though no one had ever taught me, I’d learned how to work quotation marks. I copied how they were written in stories, and, boy, was I proud of myself! I brainstormed an idea, and now, I’m not sure how it came about, but I wrote about my best friend and me. We were trick or treating and walked by a cemetery. A “ghost” jumped out at us and yelled, “Boo!” We screamed. Then, the ghost pulled off his costume and we realized it was Billy. I even drew a picture at the bottom of the three of us by some gravestones. The story was called Boo. My mother still has the story and I reread it a few years ago.
Sounds cute for 3rd grade, right? Well, the teacher wouldn’t hang it up on the wall. I remember feeling really bad about that. When my mother came in for the Halloween party, this lovely teacher pulled her aside to show her my atrocious attempt at storytelling. Sure, my handwriting was pretty sloppy. Still, rereading it and looking at it from a teacher’s perspective, it was good.
The teacher told my mother it was the worst thing she’d read in years from her students. She compared it to a classmate’s. That story had no dialogue and was very graphic. My mother was horrified at the graphicness (yes, I made up a word) of the main character ripping apart a vampire. I’m going off my mother’s words there, as I don’t remember what my classmates wrote. The teacher explained that mine had no plot or action. It rambled, which showed I had no idea what I was doing. She told me I was incapable of grasping 3rd grade English. I felt…horrible, stupid, worthless. I can still remember feeling alienated from my classmates because my teacher told me I was far below their levels. Now that I have a degree in elementary education, I understand that remedial classes are a huge help for some students. They need that extra one-on-one attention, the extra time. They don’t need, and will never need, to be told they’re less than anyone else.
How did remedial English go? I only attended, at most, two sessions. The remedial English instructor proclaimed I had a firm grasp on the written word and in no way needed the kind of help my actual teacher claimed. Despite that, I still felt worthless and dreaded going to class. I hated to hand anything in, and that followed me into 4th grade. Maybe next time I’ll talk about that year…