Ok, I must admit I loved visiting my friends in my classes at P.S. 44 on Prospect Avenue in the Bronx more than anything — even more than I loved an ice cream cone or Fudgsicle or even a Mello-Roll.
I loved walking to school with my friends from the block. Our school was on the very next street. So close, a parent could stop by and visit, if they were not busy playing mah-jongg, or visiting the beauty parlor. It was especially convenient for my mom, when a teacher would call her, inviting her to be an onsite visitor to witness “visiting.”
My elementary school report cards were always filled with the very sought-after A’s, occasionally a B. All of us first-generation kids were expected, implored even, to get A’s in all our classes. Including conduct. However, I always received a big fat U (unsatisfactory) in conduct. The teacher’s explanation: she likes to visit much too much.
I was a friendly and inquisitive sort of child. I would collect little items of interest to give to the friends whom I was visiting. Those of you who know me are not surprised by this revelation. Those of you who do not know me, please do not judge me by my love of “the visit.”
Drive-bys were not in our vocabulary. Mass shootings were not in our vocabulary. Oh sure, we knew if you were in the mafia or dared to bear witness against a “made man,” you could be beheaded or shot or worse, but that was not our world. My world as a New Yorker was innocent and privileged. (But not, to be clear, wealthy).
For me, school was a colorful playground filled with a plethora of fun, friends, and so many levels of education. First and foremost, I was immersed in learning all the challenges and pitfalls of the English language, given that I spoke Yiddish before I spoke English.
I particularly loved show-and-tell time. Readers, do you remember your show-and-tell days? I would scour our apartment, and sometimes scour my aunt’s apartments, searching for something worthy of my show-and-tell. Knowing my younger self as I do, only once that I can recall — although I feel sure this must have occurred more than once — I may have inadvertently shown and told something that should have remained in a no-show or no-tell zone. I even loved the fire drills and air-raid drills. (My dear reader friends, remember the good ol’ days, when hiding under our desks was so popular?)
These drills added a bit of spice to our young lives. To be sure, none of these seemed too threatening at the time. We were so young; everything was an adventure.
Saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America seemed to us more serious than any drill. Our teachers somehow made sure we knew every word, and we never placed our little hands on the wrong side of our chest. We sang “God Bless America” every morning directly after pledging our allegiance to America.
Truth be told, I only knew America from the gigantic globes in our classrooms. I can assure you, dear readers, I knew every inch of our neighborhood, which at the time was the extent of my world. Oh, and lest I forget Europe, which I felt so sorry for, because if we did not eat the food our mothers set in front of us, we would be reminded that the people in Europe were starving. (Sure, now that I am a grown up, so to speak, I realize it was a ploy of guilt, which every mother I knew employed on all my friends, every day.)
OK, now let’s get down to the real issues of education. Visiting does not deserve an automatic U in conduct, nor does that same U deserve to exact any degree of punishment on the young visitor. Believe me, the visitee never complained when a visitor visited. (I dare you to say that quickly three times).
Every day, upon returning home from our school adventure, this was the question I’d be asked: How was school today?
One time, when I was in middle school, I was asked an off-the-wall question. Were all the girls in school today? Who wasn’t there today?
This, my friends, is a whole different set of shpiels.
- Closing Thoughts
- Shaindle Schmuckler
- Bronx New York
- Prospect Avenue
- ice cream cone
- Mah Jongg
- beauty parlor
- elementary school
- report cards
- Mass shootings
- fire drills
- air-raid drills
- Pledge of Allegiance to the flag
- united states of america
- God Bless America
- Middle school