Sending my oldest off to Kindergarten has gotten me reflecting about my own school experiences.
And so, bear with me for a moment while I walk down memory lane
and reminisce about some of my school experiences.
Kindergarten: I started school in Utah and moved to Texas in November. My teachers were Mrs. Werner and Ms. Marquardt. One of my best friends had the same last name as me. I always thought it would be funny if we got married so my maiden/middle name and last name would be the same.
1st Grade: My teacher was Mrs. Irving. I had several incidents during this year with lying and learning to be completely honest. Once, we were taking a spelling test and the word was "seven." I couldn't remember if it ended with "-en" or "-an." There were number posters around the top of the room, and our teacher said, "Try not to look!" Well, I looked at the poster and spelled the word correctly. I was overwhelmed with guilt. The next morning, I wrote my teacher a note explaining what I had done and also wrote, "I also stayed sitting during the pledge of allegiance to write this note." I left it on her desk. During snack time, she called me up to her desk and gave me a big hug. She later called my mom and explained what had happened asking, "Did Kaitlyn recently have a Sunday School lesson on being honest or something?"
2nd Grade: My teacher was Mrs. Valenta, who had been our student teacher in 1st grade. She was young, newly married, and so sweet. This was the beginning of a great deal of little-girl friend-drama, and thus the beginning of my personal process of learning not to worry about fitting a particular mold.
3rd Grade: My teachers were Mr. Hull and Mrs. McCormick in Texas. My dad's work required a great deal of international travel which was hard on my family. As a result, halfway through my 3rd grade year my family moved back to Utah. On my last day, Mrs. McCormick gave me a beautiful copy of "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" and had all of my classmates write me notes in the covers. I still have that keepsake, complete with the note from the boy who wrote, "I'm not going to miss you." He got in big trouble and had to erase "not," but it's still clearly there amidst eraser smudges. My new teacher was Mrs. Ball. I quickly made a new best friend in Utah, not knowing her current best friend was home with the chicken pox. As you can imagine, she and I became enemies when she came back to school and I had stolen her best friend.
4th Grade: Aren't you jealous of my corduroy Winnie-the-Pooh overalls, velvet mock turtleneck, and platform sneakers? I was at yet another new school (worst-enemy drama was over), and my teacher was Mr. Allen (my favorite teacher of all time!). He kept our family entertained all year as I shared his stories around the dinner table. One day we came to school and he announced, "Today is a very exciting day! Your brain is filled with filing cabinets, waiting to be filled with information. You have filled up one filing cabinet in your brain and you are opening a fresh, new filing cabinet!" He made each day exciting in simple ways.
5th Grade: My teacher was Mrs. Merrill, a woman with a wardrobe to compete with Ms. Frizzle in The Magic School Bus series and perfectly coordinating earrings. She loved the Wizard of Oz and her whole room was decorated in that theme. She had a great passion for writing, so we spent most of our time doing reading and writing and very little time with math and science. To my dismay, a boy I went to church with evidently had a crush on me and people concluded that we "liked each other." When we were the recipients of the "Hope of America" award at the end of the year and had to have our picture taken together for the newspaper, we stood as far apart as we possibly could.
6th Grade: This was my first year in Intermediate School. My core teachers were Mrs. Wilkins and Mrs. Nelson. Notice my amazing stuffed cow keychain dangling from my backpack, and there is a homemade beaded dragonfly bobbypin in my hair. (I've come a long way.) Once I was leaning back on my chair and it somehow became very stable while suspended in the air. It was odd, so I gave my desk a shove to see if I would stay that way. Nope! I successfully shoved myself right over backwards onto the floor. While the class laughed I put myself and my desk back together with a very red face and my teacher good-naturedly said, "And that is why we don't lean back on our chairs!" To my surprise, my "worst enemy" from 3rd grade (remember, I switched schools for 4th grade) was in my core classes. We started out the year nervously avoiding one another but ended the year as best friends! She is one of my dearest friends to this day, and about the only friend I've stayed in regular contact with from my pre-college years.
7th Grade: My core teachers were Ms. Johnson and Mrs. Saunders. I started taking German and, as a result, had the opportunity to have a German girl about my age come live with us for a month during the summer. I was also a part of the Student Council and I have many vivid memories from our very fun and outspoken advisor! I also loved acting in our school plays during 6th and 7th grades.
8th Grade: I advanced to Middle School and started to care a little more about fitting in. I always felt that 8th Grade was hard because the 9th graders in our school were lumped together with the high school kids, but there wasn't much 8th graders could be involved with. I guess that's why I mostly draw a blank when I think of that year.
9th Grade: I made the Freshman volleyball team and played as a setter. My German friend came back for another visit during the school year, and we got clearance for her to attend school with me for 3 1/2 weeks. In the spring, my family moved to a new town about 40 minutes away. Some of my classmates began telling my teachers I was moving to Kentucky to live on a pepper farm and they believed them which made for some funny conversations! I also had the opportunity to go to Europe for a month to visit my German friend the summer after 9th grade!
10th Grade: Can you just see insecurities dripping from that picture? Although I was insecure, I stopped trying to fit in. My family had moved and after a long history of trauma with friends, I just gave up. That was reflected in my physical appearance as well, as you can see in the difference between 9th and 10th grade photos. I turned down invitations to parties in favor of evenings spent with my very young sister and brother. I struggled socially, but this was a time of quite a bit of spiritual growth for me. Oddly, I also got chicken pox that year and spent a week at home.
11th Grade: I (finally!) got braces to straighten out my very crooked teeth. I started becoming "state certified" in numerous courses and I served as the vice president of service for FCCLA and was involved with Operation Smile. I started teaching piano lessons. I had a pretty tough load of classes that would usually keep me up into the wee hours of the morning with homework. It wasn't uncommon for my mom to wake me up in the middle of the night where I had fallen asleep on my textbook at the computer desk. I also learned that it really wasn't the end of the world to not get asked to dances.
12th Grade: For some reason I started really dressing up for school. I was the president of FCCLA, continued teaching piano lessons, and worked in the high school day-care after school. I took a couple of classes at a different high school a few miles away. I loved making plans and preparing for college, and I was so anxious to start college that I started at BYU during the summer instead of the fall. I got my braces off and my fake teeth put in just before graduation which made me look at least 15! My mom, my sister and I flew to Denver with my cousin and my aunt for the last couple of days of school to see "Wicked."
As I think back over my school years, I have many fond memories, many not-so-fond memories, and quite a few regrets. The other day I was thinking about my regrets and things I wish I could change. I was thinking about how I wished I could take my current self and put it in different situations, because I would handle them so differently now. And then I was struck with the realization that regret is only a sign of progress. And this life is all about progress! So whether I cringe over the social mistakes I made or the lack of fashion sense I had or my lack of confidence or times I treated others unkindly, I can recognize that I am improving.
And though I still have a long way to go,
I hope my regrets will decrease as the years pass by.