School Daze

The last time I roamed the halls at the current Easton Area Middle School it was still called Shawnee Intermediate School. Although additions were made structurally and the grade levels and names may have changed the building itself is still pretty much the way I remember it to be from when I was a student in the early 1980’s.

Today was a special chance for me to spend the entire day with my daughter at her school and see what a typical day for her is like. Suffice to say, it had an impact on me.

First off let just say that there are several things that I’ll always remember from my time spent at Shawnee:

1. The Planetarium. The absolute coolest place in the school. The only time where if a visit to the planetarium was included as part of an assembly kids got excited.  Sadly, today it’s just a normal room now.

2. Shawnee was the place where I first heard of the band Duran Duran.

3. Reading the book 1984 by George Orwell in Mr. Pfister’s English class in the year, yep you guessed it, 1984.

4. Going to Mr. Heath’s Earth Science class where every morning began with him literally giving us the weather forecast. Mr. Heath would have a map of the US taped on the board complete with approaching cold/warm fronts and “H” and “L” letters representing the respective pressure systems.

5. Dale Wilson carrying around a briefcase and self-publishing his own newspaper. Why this one sticks out is a mystery to me.

Regardless, I thought of all of these things as my daughter and I walked through the doors this morning. Although I felt safe and secure, seeing the levels of security on campus reminded me that about the only thing still relevant in these hallowed halls was that big brother was now watching more than ever.

After spending the morning having breakfast we made our way to her homeroom. Once there I was quickly introduced to one of her classmates named Eric. Upon meeting me he immediately asked Jillian, “Does he know about David?”. “SHUT UP!” Jillian replied as Eric just chuckled. Later I would ask her what that was all about and Jillian told me that Eric thinks she likes David, another student in her class (one which she is quick to say she doesn’t)… Ah, young love.

It wasn’t long before the class clown/troublemaker made his presence known. Chad (name changed to protect the innocent), a ten year old boy who looked more like a linebacker was literally dancing around making “beat-box” sounds when the teacher’s back was turned. I think the level of commotion going on and students asking questions made her oblivious to his actions. Other kids were cracking up at his antics and as soon as the teacher turned back around he immediately would stop. Then sure enough, as soon as the teacher went back to work in a small group he’d act up again.

I had to laugh when I thought what the odds would be if I came back five years from now and Chad was still in the same class beat boxing?

BRRRING….School bell rang and it’s off to music class. My favorite. Usually there would be two periods of math but since she was signed up for band  I got to sit with Jillian in a small group for clarinet lesson.

When the bell rang again we made our way to Math class. As we arrived the teacher, who was working out a problem on the board asked “Were you at music?”. When Jillian responded in the affirmative the teacher replied, “Oh, too bad. You missed some really great problems here”. It was all I could do to keep from saying: “Uhm, yeah…right…SURE she did!”..

Before I knew it lunch had arrived. We scurried our way into the lunch line. A smile appeared on my face when I discovered the tater tots were exactly as I remembered. Memories of the second period lunch at the high school flooded my senses.

About the only thing I lamented about lunch was that there were no green beans. Oh how I missed stabbing the green veggies with my straw. Trying to see how high I could fill the plastic straw before squeezing it’s contents back out on to the cardboard tray.

As we ate I asked Jillian what was next. “Science Class”, she replied. “But our normal teacher is not here today. We have a substitute”.

Substitute. That word triggered the memory of Mr. Stone, the universal substitute teacher in school. Mr. Stone worked as a substitute in pretty much every subject and to this day I’m not even sure what he was experienced to teach. When he was in for a sick teacher it was like study hall because nothing was about the only thing accomplished.

After Science, we made our way back to homeroom and then the funniest thing ever happened.  The teacher wanted to take attendance again and she asked students to please acknowledge with a “Here” when their name was called. Now. most well behaved students would simply give the “here” as their name was called, although some thought to give more cool responses like “Yo” or “Hi There”. But when the teacher called out Chad’s name, he decided to answer with the “beat box”. The teacher asked him to answer properly, but the damage to me was already done.

I laughed…and I laughed…and I laughed. For some reason, him doing the beat box at that particular moment in time hit my funny bone. I was covering my face looking down at the desk with tears started coming from my eyes. I don’t know what it was that was so damn funny when he did that, but I almost had to leave the room. All the kids, including my own Jillian sat there laughing at me laughing. I don’t know how I was able to pull it together, but class continued.

The day ended with of all things an assembly. We entered the auditorium to watch The Bach Choir of Bethlehem perform a few selections. Maybe its because I’m in a choir myself or perhaps because I’m well beyond the middle school years but in either case I found them to be very entertaining.

As we walked out of school and headed home I had a new found appreciation for my daughter. Seeing her interact with others, openly raising her hand to ask questions and actively participate in school is quite the opposite of the way I was. I thought about all the memories she would now be making in these halls over the next four years.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

9 thoughts on “School Daze”

  1. The Planetarium…Mr.Heath….Dale Wilson’s briefcase….didn’t take long to bring me back to 1984. Didn’t realize it was no longer Shawnee.

  2. They’ve combined grade 5-6 in one part of the building and 7-8 in the other. Most everything is newly updated but just walking the halls is like going back in time.

    So different and yet still the same.

  3. What is even stranger is that they now call the elementary building on the “campus” Shawnee and OUR former middle school Paxinosa….:(

  4. WOW!!!! I didn’t realize how memorable I would be. It has been over 28 years since I sported that briefcase. @James Wood – Thanks for the shout out. Mary Ellen Nunes alerted me to your traveling back on memory lane, and she suggested I find you here at Word Press. I don’t do Facebook, but my wife does. And, my wife caught my mention on Facebook, but forgot to mention it to me. I hope all is well with you, James, and all of the Red Rovers of ’87.

    1. Hey Dale. Great to hear from you. I’m going great. You’re right, it really is hard to believe it’s been that long. I still remember those days of you with the newspaper and listening to Duran Duran for the first time when Jim Velesaris brought in The Seven and The Ragged Tiger album. Good memories.

      Hope to see you at our, GASP, 25th reunion next year.

  5. I actually saw him in April at a Thin Lizzy concert. Hadn’t seen him in about 10 years. He looks the same. Has a medical problem with his wrists that’s been causing some issues over the years. I think he’s still doing his own thing with music.

  6. I loved Mr. Pfister! Had him for homeroom only, but he was awesome! Always called me “Doe Eyes”…hmmmm….deer in the headlights or creepy? I cannot be certain now. Thanks for the memories and of course, our drive-by in July

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