1st grade; I wear a pair of soccer cleats to school one day because I lost the pair I had for school. I climb (While wearing these cleats) a bookshelf to grab a book that’s just out of reach. I feel scared but persist regardless. I can’t remember if I fell or not. A scoundrel on a bookshelf, I’m unsure whether I want to read through the books or tear them apart.
3rd grade; I’m given a permission slip to the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) after-school program. I’m told it’s for high-performing students and am excited but only go to one after school session before opting out of the program. In that session I learn about the freezing of water and at what starting temperature it will freeze the fastest. I will remember the lesson well into adulthood, but will forget that I am “gifted and talented”
5th grade; My teacher turns off his projector and tells us he’d like for everyone to sit and listen to the sound of raindrops hitting the roof of our classroom portable for a while. He says it’s peaceful. I’m just relieved we’re not doing any work. I won’t forget his appreciation but will however, forget how to appreciate the silence he treasured so dearly that day.
8th grade; I flunk enough of my classes that my English teacher tells me that I am not going to be participating in the celebration of promotion with the rest of my class. She seems to relish the fact. I don’t blame her. I don’t care about the material and have failed most classes I’m in. In this class especially, my only victories come from making her life miserable. I wreak havoc on her silent moments and will push a bookshelf over before I climb it. And then I’ll grab a book and tear it apart.
9th grade; I start the year strong and do surprisingly well in most of my classes. I start to slip and eventually I free fall into failure. One day, during a moment of quiet serenity in my Earth Science class, my teacher hunches over his desk (which I’m sitting right in front of) and asks “Are you okay?”. I’m confused and don’t understand the question. I meet his genuine concern with a scoff and shrug him off, telling him I’m fine. I will never forget this moment. I’m no longer gifted and talented, maybe bright but lazy. I’m not sure what I am or what I am capable of being, and I won’t realize it until years later. And when I do, I run into that teacher again at a restaurant, I thank him for seeing in me what I didn’t see in myself, and for caring. I’ll remember the incident in class, but for the rest of my time in high school, it’s importance and impact will be unknown to me.
10th grade; My teacher is hunched over the front of the room and yelling like a caveman. He is literally yelling unintelligible words at the top of his lungs and banging on his chest. This is a lesson about prehistoric times, and I couldn’t be more enthralled. It’s the first class in a long time, if not ever, that I am eager to get to strictly because of the lessons. This class will teach me to love learning, this teacher will teach me what it means to have someone in front of you that loves what they do and in turn, makes all the students love it. This teacher will be the single most important instructor and mentor throughout my time in high school and one of the most influential people in my entire life. I will never forget him. I will sadly forget how much I love to learn and forget soon after. Although I finish this class with a grade percentage of over 100, it will be one of the only classes I’ll pass all year.
12th grade; I barely graduate high school. I finish with a 1.8 GPA and while my friends talk about what school they will be attending come Fall, I shudder away from the subject and re-direct conversations. Failing myself, I am convinced that it’s best I give up the idea of succeeding as a student. I have completely forgotten by now what I’m capable of. I jump one job I hate to another, until one day while at one of these jobs I have a bizarre interaction with a stranger that will motivate me to re-think my abandonment of lessons like those ideal freezing temperatures for water, Earth Science and cavemen. I’d start to pick up the bookshelves I carelessly knocked over.
End of part 1, Read Part Two here: https://broadstew.com/2019/05/22/bookshelves-part-two/