Remember fourth grade? Me neither. Because it was unfortunately sandwiched between third grade, the only time that I was in the same class as my childhood BFF Jennifer, and fifth grade, when I ruled the school in my super favorite look-at-me-I’m-hot-shit cut-off shorts.
Actually, I do remember two things about fourth grade. I was in Ms. Kavlick’s class, and she was the oldest and most decrepit teacher I ever had. All she needed to successfully pull off a ‘haggard witch’ look was a black hat, as her nose was already appropriately misshapen and her skin sufficiently warty to scare any student at J.P. Ryon Elementary. And then Ms. Kavlick told us a story about a certain eye problem she had recently experienced.
“The other day I noticed that my left eye wasn’t tearing up when I cried (??) so I went to the eye doctor,” she began. The eye doctor examined her eye and determined, as any genius might, that something was blocking her tear duct. He told her that there was nothing he could do and that it would probably fix itself soon enough. Ms. Kavlick was satisfied with this evaluation and got up to leave the doctor’s office. As she was leaving, she needed to cough so she grabbed a tissue and hacked really hard. When she looked at the tissue, there was “a small rod shaped ‘thing’ the color of a dark booger,” she told us. She showed it to the doctor and he announced happily that this booger colored stick was obviously what had been blocking her tear duct. I don’t think I need to explain why this has stuck with me for 16 years.
Fourth grade was also the year that my class dissected an owl pellet. For those unfamiliar with the procedure, it means that a class of 9 year olds used tweezers to pick apart and remove itty bitty mouse bones from the hardened, turd-like regurgitation pellets of an owl, which someone had to actively go out to the woods and collect. And if that’s not gross enough, we also cleaned the bones and glued them to a piece of black construction paper in a proper mouse skeleton form. I recall my mother trying to hide her horror when I whipped that paper out at the dinner table one night, and then various times years later when I refused to throw it away because I still thought it was neat.
Why am I telling you this? Because those really are the only two things I can remember about being a fourth grader. What I do not remember is that in fourth grade, you are still an exceptionally cute child with an awesome imagination and the attitude that anything can be cool if someone older and slightly interesting is involved.
Seriously, these fourth graders are really adorable. Like a teacup poodle or something else tiny and ‘awwww’ inducing. They’re way cuter than the douchey sixth graders who are currently morphing into snotty, evil monstershits. Fourth graders are still all baby-faced and small. Sometimes I just want to hug them for no other reason than their cute factor.
They approach everything with a sense of wonder and amazement. Everything in my English room is fucking spectacular to them: most importantly me. After three months, they still get really excited to see me. Like, can’t sit still in their chairs excited when I walk in the room. How can you not love someone who is so thrilled to see you? It’s like having a little puppy who jumps and yips and runs in circles when you get home everyday. (I’m sorry I keep comparing them to dogs, but really, in this case it’s meant in the best way).
Fourth graders think games like Simon Says are the shit, or better yet, “Disappearing Dialogue!” Disappearing Dialogue! isn’t even a game, it’s a dialogue practice cloze activity. But my fourth graders were tripping all over themselves last week to have the chance to stand up and recite the same boring, “Let’s go shopping! I want a chair! How much is it?” over and over again. Like, waving their hands wildly, whimpering and whining with their asses barely in their chairs trying to get me to call on them. Sometimes I call on the same kids over and over again because I’m afraid if I don’t they are actually going to explode. And there’s no candy or stickers at stake. Nothing.
Hanging out with the fourth graders is fucking nuts, but it’s also why I am considering teaching as a deliberate career move now instead of just a means to get to the other side of the world. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend their days with people that still like you even after your haunting eye-booger story and grotesque owl vomit project??