I like to think I was too busy learning to be bothered with school. But looking back, I have to admit it may look like I was too undisciplined and too unmotivated. The truth is I was afraid. I was afraid of failing. And I was even more afraid of succeeding.
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading. As a first grader, I was reading the fifth-grade reading book. By myself at a table in the classroom. I seem to remember my teacher, Miss Peggy, talking with my mom about moving me up a grade because of my reading. My mom demurred, arguing that my other academic and social skills were not as advanced as my reading. She may have been right.
By third grade, I had discovered girls and a love for writing. Mrs. Kight’s third grade classroom was world headquarters for the periodical Odd Sane Dog, a handwritten, hand-copied, and hand-distributed counter-culture newsletter. Well, it was as counter-culture as possible for a third grader in southeast Georgia. But there also was Molly Cannon in the third grade.
Good golly, indeed.
I fell hard for Molly. Too bad for me, she didn’t give me the time of day. I guess the OSD was too out there for her.
In the fifth grade, I discovered the power of getting other people’s attention. There was the time I got sent to the principal’s office for talking too much about our Little League game from the day before. The principal had a novel way of dealing with loquacious fifth-graders. He made us sit out on a bench in front of his office with white adhesive tape crossed over our mouths. Imagine the looks we got as our colleagues passed by on the way to recess or lunch or wherever. Funny, ha ha! Imagine the look I got from my mom (who worked in the school office by this time) when she saw me like that!
As a seventh-grader, I became a published poet. No, for real.