My childhood is hazy, but the things I remember clearly, disturb me greatly.
School when I was six and seven years old was difficult. The teachers mostly just wanted us to learn colors, our numbers 1-10, ABCs, and little else. I recall being asked one time to render a picture of the earth using crayons. I vividly remember looking around as the other kids merrily went about doing their best with blue and green crayons to draw the earth. I immediately questioned the merit of the exercise admitting that I had no idea what the earth looked like. The teacher assured me that it didn't matter. I refused to participate and ended up sitting in the corner the rest of the day.
When I moved the following year to Moscow, I went to McDonald Elementary.
The teachers at that school encouraged me to participate in the gifted and talented program. I served as the treasurer on the student council. A pair of teachers helped me overcome my dyslexia, and encouraged me to go to a writing summer program at the university. I made some incredible friends, and went on more field trips that I can count.
I remember fondly two school projects.
One was the building of a bridge out of toothpicks. We had a budget and were issued fake money to that end. The object was to build a bridge that could sustain a certain amount of weight, while staying within the budget. It was the first taste of resources management, and even as a 3rd grader, I loved it. We each got to take a role in the project, architect, accountant, purchaser, and builder. Teams of four. We had to work together and communicate effectively. The teacher served as the mock city council and had to approve our plans. We also had to account for all our expenditures and the time we spent building the bridge. We weren't assigned time specifically, so we had to stay focused during class and complete out assignments early to work on the bridge.
The winning team got coupons for some free popcorn at the next school movie showing.
The second was a puppet show. We had to write our own story, make the props, the stage, and do rehearsals. We had to consider the logistics of having puppeteers mingling under the stage, lighting, and had a limited number of materials. It was an incredible and memorable experience.
I learned more in the second through fifth grade than I did my entire middle and high school career.
Middle school was a terrifying experience. The gifted and talented program was tiny group of gifted kids, and home schooled students, something like five. There was no teacher there to help us with resources for projects. We just sat sadly in a tiny computer lab and traded war stories about how the other students delighted in tormenting us. I met one of my good friends in gym class that same year in the vice-principle's office, after he witnessed three of my classmates attacking me by the tennis courts. His account contradicted the gym teacher's account, a man who seemed to delight in watching smaller kids get bullied by bigger kids. A sadist.
High School was so stressful, I barely remember any of it. I remember clearly that dropping out seemed like the most logical option given all I'd gotten out of it so far. I have dozens of depressing stories, but the most telling is my Junior Year English class. My grades had plummeted since middle school, and I was stuck in the bottom barrel english class. It was me and a bunch of other no-hope kids with an extremely elderly teacher. I decided to make the best of it and worked closely with her on a paper. She looked over my drafts, and followed my progress through every step. I felt relieved when I turned it in, until the following day when she raked me over the coals for not turning in my paper.
I questioned her politely, but she could not recall seeing me work on it, and claimed I'd never submitted a draft. She then abruptly dismissed me to the vice-principle to be disciplined. When I asked her what I should tell him I did wrong, she said she'd use the intercom to converse with him on the matter. Upon arriving, the vice-principle was baffled as to why I was there. He called the teacher, who claimed to have no recollection of sending me to see him. That's when I was told she suffered from a neurological disorder, a brain fever he called it.
Every confidence I had remaining that anyone in the school district had my best interests at heart, quickly dissolved.
I'll skip the part where I mourned the whole situation and blamed myself for failing to succeed at school where so many others had excelled. I'll never really know why did so well in Moscow, and utterly failed in Boise. Likely, it is a matter far more complicated than any one, two, or ten reasons or circumstances. The more I contemplate all that happened, the less I blame myself.
I've had people tell me that I wasn't being challenged, that I was bored, and things would have been different if I'd only applied myself. All pretty much rubbish I'd say, in the wake of acquiring more of the human experience, than my school career. I'm no smarter than anyone else, it wasn't for a lack of desire to perform, and I was anything but bored most of the time.
I know I was different from other kids. Far more detail oriented and predatory than most, with an overdeveloped sense of wrong and right. Like anyone with my wiring, I could shut off my ethics at will, compartmentalize them for my own purposes. When I went to school in Moscow, none of that mattered, and I never had to call upon my baser self.
When I felt like my classmates were my peers, and part of my team, it made all the difference in the world. When I felt like my teachers were truly my mentors, and we were all learning from each other, the task, whatever it was, always felt noble. The schools I attended in Boise weren't academic communities when I arrived, and they were further from the mark when I departed from them.
Things need to change.