We walked backward 'til we fell,
Ran for busses, made the last bell,
Took our bows and gave our thanks,
Then we fell into the ranks ...
Laura Love, 'Bang Bang', 1992
On Estaugh Avenue I attended a preschool at Elizabeth Haddon Elementary in 1969 and early 1970 a graceful old lady of a school a few blocks from our house. I enjoyed going to school each day, but was eager to start learning and not just play games.
In the Autumn of 1970 I started at Central Elementary, which was a block from our new house. It was a mid-century brick box, with very standard classrooms and a large, sandy play field out back. The teachers were mostly older ladies who all seemed to have a bottomless collection of bulletin board art from the 1950's depicting covered bridges, pumpkins, and pastoral scenes from New England. They also valued students who sat still and did as they were told, so I had a mixed relationship with them.
Junior High School
After 6th grade I moved to Haddonfield Junior High School, housed in a slightly more modern extension of Central Elementary. Students from all three of the town's elementary schools fed into one junior high school, so there was a greater variety of people in my classes and a more interesting array of subjects to study.
For me it was a rather dark and angst-filled time. I had too many thoughts and not enough wisdom to organize and channel them, consequently I acted out a lot and got myself into trouble at school and at home. Though I never did any long-term damage I was one of those kids who was on the fence about which path in life they were taking.
I entered Haddonfield Memorial High School in the autumn of 1979. HMHS was a classic 1920's building with a 1960's wing attached. It sat right on King's Highway and always reminded me of the look of Riverdale High from the Archie Comics. As a school it was a great place, with strong teaching, plenty of sports, and active clubs.
Haddonfield Memorial High School
Haddonfield, New Jersey
When I first entered elementary school I was a promising student, but as I got older I began to get frustrated with school and my grades declined. I found that if I was bored by a subject I just could not bring myself to care enough to feign interest, but if I enjoyed the subject I wanted to devour the material as fast as I could. Both approaches put me out of synch with the rest of the class and at odds with my teachers. I was happiest in English, History and Reading classes. Math and Science had their moments, but the joy that others find in them was usually lost on me.
The most common refrain from my teachers at the time was that "Brian is intelligent enough to do very well, and when he applies himself he does. He will only apply himself when it interests him though, and that is why he is not doing better." My grades improved throughout my high school years. Though I still was not 'living up to my potential' I was a solid B student and did well enough on the SAT's to have some options to work with.
What Was I Missing?
During my sophomore year in high school I was once kicked out of my Algebra class because I would not stop asking the teacher WHY we needed to learn a particular function (the how was obvious enough). I was genuinely not trying to be difficult, rather, I was trying to find some way to connect this new idea to something real. This experience summed up my frustration with so much of my early education I can learn how to follow any step-by-step procedure just like the next student, but if you can't give me one good example of a time when I would need to do that procedure in real life, or show how that knowledge builds toward some greater understanding, then I will have a hard time caring about it.