I was in Prospect, CT last night at their annual D.A.R.E. graduation. I’ve been to 13 now. It’s my tradition as well as theirs.
I enjoy going because I like Prospect. It really does have a neat, small town feel. Going to Community School has got to be a different experience than going to P.S. 163¹ in Flushing, Queens.
Some small things have changed. All the kids’ speeches are written and printed on computer. When I first came, they were hand written. The slide show at the end is now a PowerPoint presentation.
I made a point last night to observe the kids closely. It’s been a while since Steffie was 11, so there are things I’ve forgotten. Even then I couldn’t really be a dispassionate observer.
Being 11 is definitely being in transition. You are obviously still a kid in every way, but you’re getting set to begin fending for yourself and actually making some decisions on your own.
It is a physically awkward time. When the kids came up on stage to receive their certificates shake some hands, many didn’t know which hand to use. The vast majority, though not all, avoided eye contact – not just to me, but to all the adults on the stage.
I found that odd.
I have a terrible habit when I look at someone younger than me. I tend to mentally age them. So, now I know what all these kids will look like in their fifties and sixties. Some will be pleased. Many will not.
I know – it’s weird. I do it to nearly everyone young, wherever I am.
Some of the kids won an essay contest and read theirs aloud. How tough is that when you’re 11? I was a few feet behind them and could see nearly every one quivering. Though a few inches from the microphone, most were still too quiet to be heard.
I would guess the anticipation of this public performance must be nerve wracking when you’re 11. I’m sure I couldn’t have done it.
In a few years their writing will mature. Right now, most of it is reading back what others have said. I don’t know when individual creativity kicks in, but by-and-large it’s not in 5th grade.
I believe I was a real piece of work in the 5th grade, back in Mrs. McEnroe’s class at P.S. 163. I too would have squirmed while in the presence of non-family adults.
Our school never did anything to bring the parents and kids together at school, as this night in Prospect did. Looking back, that’s my loss.
¹ – I was surprised to find this page, which rates my old elementary school, and rates it highly. Is there anything still the same since I left in the early 60s?
If I read correctly, it’s now 66% Asian. When I went, the school was totally white, except for two black brothers, Hubert and Herbert. There were no Hispanic or Asian students.
It was a school with a library the size of a Manhattan kitchen and a multipurpose ‘gym’ which never saw a sport or game played.