Remember When?

Not too many years ago, I was teaching a group of 5th graders. Every day a handful of them would leave my room debating the latest political events, arguing for or against the Republicans and Democrats who were leading our country. And every day, as they left, I laughed as I thought about the worldliness of our youngsters…and how very different it was from 1970 when I was in 5th grade.

You see, I grew up out in the country. We had one black and white TV with so much snow that only two and a half channels came in. I say “a half”  of a channel because one station would only come in if one of us would hold a wire coat hanger high above our heads, foot pressed against the wall, with our free hand clenched tightly to the antenna wire that dangled from the portable rabbit ears. So, needless to say, we did not watch the news. In order for a show to be worthy of all of that effort, it had to be something good…something like Dragnet or Medical Center or even football…but definitely not the news.

So, the other day, just before the opening day of school, my mind took this journey back to the 1970s…to what we talked about as fifth graders. Believe me, it was not an in-depth conversation, but I will share it with you.

Picture this: It was the the first day of 5th grade in a small town. We sat in a pristine classroom with 24 desks lined up in perfectly formed rows. The teacher, an old lady with thick glasses and dyed jet-black hair sat at her desk, clapping her hands and announcing for everyone to “quickly choose a seat because we don’t have all day.” (Ummm…even a small town 5th grader knew that wasn’t correct. We did have all day.) A friend of mine had chosen a seat behind me, just off to my left. While the teacher with the unnaturally dark hair and the completely natural wrinkles listed off every rule we were to follow and what would happen if we broke them, my friend opened his desk and stuck his head inside. He pulled out his box of 64 Crayola Crayons and pressed them into my arm. “Hey!” he called out in a whisper. “Smell these! Don’t they smell good?”

And that was it…the depth of our fifth grade conversations back in 1970. We didn’t understand politics…nor did we care. We were kids. Our biggest thrill was having a new box of crayons that “smelled” awesome. Life just seemed a lot easier when all you worried about was whether your status depended upon if you were the kid with the 24, 48, or 64 count box of crayons. I wish life was that easy now.

And so remember, life’s simple pleasures don’t have to be a new house or even a new car…a new box of crayons will do.

So, here’s wishing you a ton of simple pleasures this school year…and at least one new box of Crayola Crayons this year.

The Fat/Phat Teacher,


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