Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sixth Grade

Fifty years ago, I started sixth grade. I was in Mrs. Levine's class at Belmont Boulevard School (which had just been or very soon would be renamed Clara H. Carlson School after a woman who had been a prominent teacher and administrator in the district). Perhaps the most notable thing I recall about Mrs. Levine is that she left midway through the year on either a medical or maternity leave and we only saw her once after that, when she came to our graduation ceremony. She was replaced by Mrs. Beck, who was not as popular with the class as Mrs. Levine had been; in fact, some of my classmates would say "The heck with Beck!" when talking about her.

I was the editor of the school newspaper, The Carlson Communicator. It was printed using the mimeograph machine, which required it to be typed onto a mimeo master, something that long ago disappeared from use with the rise of copier machines. I suspect that my selection as editor had to do with my familiarity with a typewriter, since I'd already been using one at home to publish The Doodler. Since the newspaper was only published once a month or so, it did not carry much in the way of breaking news.

I was also the captain of the monitors -- the school safety patrol -- in sixth grade. Mostly, the monitors stood at the top and bottom of the staircases at the beginning and end of the day, reminding students to stay to the right while going up or down.

But there was one outside duty that was coveted by all of us -- standing on the corner by the crosswalk and telling students when they could cross the street. As captain of the monitors, I made the assignments of the posts and always kept that corner for myself. (Despite its name, Belmont Boulevard did not have much traffic. If it had, I'm sure there would have been a crossing guard assigned to that corner, rather than leaving the safety of the students to a twelve-year-old.)  At first, I would just tell kids to wait if there was a car anywhere in the vicinity, but as time went on, I grew bold enough to actually signal the occasional passing car to stop so students could cross.

One other thing I did that year was tutor Georgie. There were five sixth grade classes in the school; I was in the "advanced" one and Georgie was in the "slow" class. A couple of times a week, we would sit in the room where they stored the AV equipment and I would help him with math. Today, Georgie would probably be classified as "troubled," but back then he was just "trouble" -- the student most teachers thought would become a juvenile delinquent and end up in jail. As I recall, he lived with his mother, with no father present. She worked in the local 5-and-10 and was the only mother I knew of who had a job. No one ever asked what had happened to Georgie's father; it wasn't any of our business.
Georgie got into fights with other kids fairly often, resulting in visits to the principal and disciplinary actions, but he and I got along well. That dated back to being in the same classes in our years at Elmont Road School.
One day, our fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Fox, suggested that maybe I could help Georgie with his homework if he came over to my house. I told Georgie that it was my brother's birthday so it might not be a good idea, but he came anyway, much to the initial annoyance of my mother. But when Georgie handed my brother a package of toy soldiers as a birthday present -- his mother had insisted that he could not show up empty-handed -- he was welcomed and invited to stay for dinner.
It may have been my helping him with homework in fourth grade that resulted in my tutoring him in sixth, but I have no memory of why it started. All I recall is that there would be times when I would be done with classwork and would tell Mrs. Levine or Mrs. Beck that I could go and tutor Georgie and they would let me go.
I have no idea what happened to Georgie after sixth grade. Along with virtually all of my elementary school classmates, he went to Stanforth Junior High while I, because of the district layout, went to Elmont Memorial. One can only hope he's had a happy and productive life.


  1. and you've never looked him up on facebook?

    1. Sure Ihave, but his last name is fairly common and none of the people on Facebook with that name are him.