First Day of School

8 Sep

My (nearly) 6-year-old niece started first grade today. I am still getting used to the idea of our baby girl spearheading her way through these kinds of milestones for the newest generation of our family. But once I get over that initial shock I think, how fun! For me, the first day of school meant new clothes, exercise books full of fresh pages, a pencil case containing a rainbow of colouring implements, and nervous excitement about the year ahead.

I can only hope that the next 12+ years will leave my niece educated, enlightened, and enthusiastic about learning and life.

First grade is always an exciting year, and it was a big deal for 5-year-old me…


It was my first year at a new school (after attending French immersion kindergarten) and my first time having to be at school for the full day. Thankfully, I made friends quickly and together we learned the ins and outs of school at Walter Lee Elementary.


Bear with me while I reminisce about some first grade memories…

My teacher, Mrs. Franks, was a waif of a woman with thin blonde hair who was always grumpy. I’m sure it wasn’t all that bad* (bless the poor woman, she had to contend with 25 six-year-olds for 8 hours a day), but I remember her yelling at the class fairly regularly. This was not something that happened in kindergarten and I was not a fan. I’ll never forget how the buzzing noise from the overhead fluorescent lights gave her migraines, so we worked in the dark more often than not. I am told, although I don’t remember this myself, that she wore nice shoes.

Of all the stories we read, crafts we assembled, and topics we learned about, I have a strong memory of discovering the transformational magic that is metamorphosis. Caterpillar + Time = Butterfly. Amazing. To be sure, this unit began with a reading of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Other curriculum highlights: tracing our hands to make Thanksgiving turkeys out of construction paper; singing along to Charlotte Diamond songs; practicing our long and short vowel sounds; analyzing a story about a boy and a snowman (I got in trouble for having messy printing); attending a performance of The Nutcracker ballet at Christmas (field trip!); and sports day!

Speaking of messy printing… There was a boy (isn’t there always?) in my class who caught my attention, despite the fact that boys definitely had cooties and were not acceptable friend material. This boy had the neatest printing I’d ever seen (aside from the teacher’s printing, of course), but it wasn’t just his perfectly drawn letters that made me sit up at my metal desk and take notice. Oh sure, I swooned over his practice pages filled with precise Rs and Ns, but his dark hair and bright smile (full of teeth too big for his little kid face) were just as intriguing.

And there was another boy. This one was blonde and always getting into trouble (yin to the yang). This brash young man dared to kiss my hand in the momentary chaos that ensued as the class lined up single file to march down the hall to the gym. The nerve! (But a little bit romantic, am I right?)

Almost everybody in my class came down with Chickenpox around Valentine’s Day when one contagious kid brought it to school. We were all down and out for at least a week. I remember thinking Mrs. Franks would be so excited to see me when I finally returned to school. She wasn’t.

*A friend who was in the same class has confirmed that it was, in fact, pretty bad.


When we sold the family house, I inherited a Rubbermaid bin full of papers, photos, newspaper clippings, and other random mementos, lovingly sorted into envelopes corresponding to each school year (thanks mom!). I couldn’t justify the space to keep everything, so I spent a nostalgic weekend sifting through it, piece by piece. I kept a small box of special things, took photos of anything that lit a spark of a memory, and tossed the rest. It was a real trip down memory lane, as well as a captivating look into the mind of my school-aged self.

Looking through the items I kept from my Grade 1 year, a few things are apparent: I didn’t like it when the teacher yelled, I was happy to be alive, and I loved my family. So, basically nothing has changed 😉

Here’s a look at some of my artifacts from Grade 1. Click on the photo to read the full caption.


Thanks for reading 🙂 Maybe you’ll see more of this kind of thing around here soon. Maybe.

One Response to “First Day of School”

  1. cherylchisholm September 10, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    Thanks for sharing these memories and mementos. It’s how I remember you and your sensibilities to school and your sensitivities to each teacher and the environment they created.
    BTW- I think Yo showed your building confidence to say how you felt, like your older brothers talked. I remember Emily being in your class that year.

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