What remains in my mind of third grade is all great. The teacher was a consummate professional. I had loved Miss DeVries, but I had absolutely no similar feelings for my third-grade teacher, who I respected her immensely. I don't her remember her being harsh or strict, or somehow without tenderness. I suppose I was simply getting older and some of the childishness was disappearing, loving morphing into respect. When I see it in my imagination, walking into her door was a good, good thing because good things happened in that classroom.
I don't know where educational theory is on tracking these days--for it or agin' it. But I know this--it was a big deal to be among the bright kids, and I wonder if maybe I wasn't pushed along simply by the knowledge that more was expected of me. I can't imagine that those third-graders who stayed back in the second grade room didn't find themselves also affected by the choice the teachers made some night before school started. But for me, there's no question--it was a good choice.
It helped to listen to fourth graders, too, which is why when country kids my age revel in their one-room school memories, I buy their charmed nostalgia. You couldn't help but listen to the older kids, so it was like getting two grades for the price of one.
I remember Mrs. LeMahieu as a master teacher, entirely capable of juggling two grades at one time without missing a single beat. Kind, judicious, and always interesting, she was, I think, some kind of teacher, always a soft voice, always in control.
One of my classmates was her son. Once that year, he invited me to their farm to stay overnight, the first time in my life I was invited to what my granddaughter fetchingly calls a “sleepover,” maybe even the only time. At dusk, we went out to the barn with BB guns and shot sputzies in the rafters, the first time I ever killed something otherwise alive. I wish I could say I was horrified, but I wasn't.
I felt like a man.