I was in the eighth grade at Lincoln Junior High, which had a reputation as a rough and tough school. Our parents were mostly blue-collar workers who worked long, hard hours at jobs requiring lots of time and physical labor. Only a few students had parents with college degrees and desk jobs.
Most of the students at Lincoln were kind and thoughtful, and we got along and enjoyed the experience. On the other hand, it’s true that we had our share of “rough and tough” students who would be considered gang members today. Honestly though, my experience was that for the most part they were actually okay guys too.
I don’t know if we were much different than students in other schools, but we certainly had that reputation. Come to think of it though, how many schools had a student body president who set his locker on fire? Or someone who put a Tootsie Pop wrapper in the classroom light fixture nearly every day? (By the way, after carefully observing this long term experiment, I can tell you it takes about 10 minutes for it to start smoking). Or a PE teacher who boxed with a bully? (On the other hand, the PE coach at the “rich” eastside school where I did my student teaching threatened a student with a baseball bat, so maybe we really weren’t so different?)
Anyway, rumor had it that the “best” teachers taught in those rich eastside schools where the parents were well educated and powerful. Maybe it was true that our teachers were not considered the “best” or most highly prized, but I must say I had some great teachers who were right for me and I never felt cheated by the education I received.
With this little background, let me get on with my story. As I mentioned, I was in the eighth grade. Right after lunch I had English with Mr. Olsen, a tall balding man probably in his early to mid-thirties. Even though we all knew he would be five to ten minutes late, we tended to be in class on time.
It was a warm spring day, and perhaps everyone was restless, who knows, but for whatever reason I was the one who was grabbed, picked up, and thrown out the window into a big, thorny, pyracantha bush (it was a good thing that the class was on the ground level rather than the second floor). For the record, I was one of the smallest students in school (case in point, as a sophomore in high school I was only 5’2” and weighed 95 lbs.), so I assume the guys in the class thought I would be the easiest one to throw out the window.
Not only was I one of the littlest ones in the school, but apparently, I was also not one of the brightest students. Why do I say this? Because after getting out of the pyracantha bush post haste (I might add), pulling out the thorns, and rubbing my arms, I walked back into the classroom. Mr. Olsen wasn’t there yet, so the same boys decided that my first flight out the window was so fun they picked me up again and threw me out the same window into the same pyracantha bush. This time I wasn’t as anxious to get back to the room, so I waited for the teacher to show up and walked in with him.
No one, not even me, said anything about this incident to Mr. Olsen. Everyone just acted as though things were normal, and class went on as usual. I knew at the time that even though I didn’t want another trip to that particular pyracantha bush, I wasn’t scared or intimidated and knew how to use my quick wit and sense of humor to make my way through the thorny bushes of junior high life.
Over the years, I’ve had many laughs with this story. It’s a fun story to share because it’s unusual and almost unbelievable, but believe me, it really happened. The important take-away for all of us as parents is the importance of trusting our kids to handle their ups and downs without jumping in too fast to smooth things over for them. Of course, there are times when our kids truly do need our help to get through experiences that are too hurtful or beyond their skill to handle. Let’s work to create the kind of home atmosphere where our children know we’ll be there to help when they need it, yet they are still comfortable talking about their day without worrying we’ll make a big thing out of something they’re totally capable of working out on their own.
Oh, and by the way, I was never early to English class again!
Here’s to failing forward!
Calvert and Anne
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