Santa Monica

In my hometown, there was a woman named Miss G. She was a large woman, a larger-than-life woman, who drove up to the various little elementary schools in her enormous Cadillac. Every one knew when she showed up, that someone was getting tested for "The Program." When I arrived in 5th grade at my 6-room schoolhouse, Miss G. showed up and all the kids tittered and whispered to me "you're gonna get tested for The Program!" I started to get a little nervous.

As it turned out, she was the school district psychologist in charge of the accelerated program. She and I entered the closet-sized office on the 3rd floor and she gave what was basically an IQ test. It was a big day. One that affected my entire life, though I didn't know it then. I even remember 2 of the questions:
1. If you lost your wallet in a baseball field, draw the path you would take to find it.
2. If you had a 3 qt bucket and a 5 qt bucket, how would you measure out 4 qts?

I ended up leaving my little elementary school. The next year, I got bused to the other side of town to attend 6th grade with other children also pulled out of their elementary school. Whatever friendships we had in our own neighborhood swere hard to maintain since we spent our days with another group of kids. It was harder in the summer as we tried to maintain friendships with kids who lived all over town. But we did. Atleast I did. Because at The Program, I found a group of kids that were so much like me, that I felt like I had come home. I could be myself, without holding back.

The new school was hard for me. The other kids had already been together a year. The Program didn't teach in the traditional methods but encouraged us to explore and imagine in new ways. We even had to schedule the day and complete our assignments by the end of the day. At 11 years old! I didn't do very well at first. But I caught on, and I have to say that The Program, in a way, saved my life. Atleast it saved my intellectual life. It was also there that I met a gangly boy ,known here as HH. He had scraggly wavy hair, big geeky glasses and had a penchant for wearing a white "Saturday Night Fever" vest. But that story will come later.

It became clear to me very quickly that The Program was envied and despised all at once and grown-ups didn't hesitate to let us kids know it. In fact, not only were parents antagonistic toward it, so were District administrators and other teachers. Miss G., larger-than-life, made it her mission to protect The Program - the teachers, who loved each and every one of us as individuals, and each and every one of us geeky, gangly, bespectacled, multi-syllable-spewing 11 year olds. Not every child from that class could be considered "successes," but for me, it was the booster rocket that made me all I am.

So, Monica G., here's to you!

No comments: