Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

September 28-October 4, 2006

City Beat : Philly Blunt

My Day as a Strawbridge School Third Grader

Retold by 33-year-old Brian Hickey

When City Paper was born 25 years ago, I was a third-grader at Strawbridge Elementary School in Westmont, N.J. Granted, I have no recollection of the early CP days; in fact, the only thing I remember vividly about that year was when I was at Ms. Stewart's desk and stapled my right index and middle fingers together mistakenly. (Yes, it hurt like heck.) So earlier this month, I returned to Strawbridge in honor of my third-grade silver anniversary.

Lacking the woes facing many city schools, the ones that chase so many families to 'burbs like this one, Strawbridge remains a sheltered place, where kids are allowed to be kids, where they can live a life devoid of neighborhood gunfire by night and truancy by day. It's also the type of place that teachers yearn to be at, for good reason.

Sure, the property taxes are high, but that's the price people are willing to pay to ensure that their children get a fair start in life. (They are, as we're often told, the future, so the day served as a reminder that we need to pay as much attention to them as possible.)

By transporting myself back in time, I realized that this is the way it's supposed to be for third graders, whether they're born in Westmont or West Philadelphia.

* As part of our reading class, we wrote book summaries in which blurbs about the beginning, middle and end of the story were glued to the inside of a folded piece of cardboard paper. If cut into thirds (as you can do by snipping along the dotted lines one at a time on this page), each section can be exposed separately.

** Names changed to protect their innocence.



I couldn't walk to school Thursday because it was raining really hard. Plus, I was kinda late and if you're not in line in the schoolyard by 20 after 8, you get in trouble and I really can't get in trouble again. 'Specially today, because the new year just started and we have a new teacher and new classroom and new books and even though we don't get letter grades till next year, I didn't want to start off on a bad foot. So I was going as fast as I could to get there on time.

Once me and my 19 classmates put our backpacks and raincoats away, the student council president came on the intercom and she read the Pledge of Allegiance, but she read it really fast, so she was done before the rest of us kids finished up. After that, it was math class and we did this cool new thing called a math message which was taped to the blackboard. It had five equations on it and we had to figure out how they were, what's the word, related? I knew 15 - 1 was 14, so when I figured out that one dozen and two more was 14 too, I knew all the answers were 14! Then we played a cool card game about math until 10 o'clock when it was time for recess.

But Mrs. Morgan wouldn't let us go outside to play kickball or Sheeps and Wolves. (That's kinda like what they used to call dodgeball.) I couldn't see any rain falling anymore, but she said the ground was wet, so the student teacher made us play Simon Says. But Simon Says is boring. We didn't complain much, though, because the second classroom rule is "Follow Directions." Right before the end of recess, she let us play Silent Ball, which was better. A lot better! Even if we had to sit on our desks and be quiet when we threw the foam ball around the room, waiting for people to talk, or drop it. I played really good until someone threw me the ball and I kinda slid backwards and fell off the desk and knocked all of our student teacher's pencils and stickers and school supplies on the ground.

Everybody laughed real loud. Even me.


After recess, we had lunch. The school had oven-fried chicken and mashed potatoes I think, but I brought a turkey hoagie and a red Gatorade and a pretzel with me. It was really loud in the lunchroom, just like it was way back in the 1980s when Frank Shipe broke the gym-class shuttle-run record that's still up on the auditorium wall. The girls dared me to try and hit the ceiling in the hallway so I made sure the lunch aide wasn't looking and I jumped. I told them I could do it! They finally let us inside and the girls wanted me to sit at their table, so I did. I laughed when they told the fourth- and fifth-graders that I was the new kid in school who got held back 25 times already. (I think some of them might have believed it!) We were all sharing food so I gave one of my friends a piece of my hoagie, even though one of the girls kept poking me and dipping my glasses in her friend's Lunchables pizza-sauce cup. She was funny.

After lunch, we had French class and we learned how to ask how to go to the bathroom or water fountain. The first one's "Puis-je aller aux toilettes?" and the second one's "Puis-je aller a la fontaine?" Mrs. Morgan said she was going to make us ask in French from now on and that she was going to call home and tell our parents to do the same thing. I hope she was kidding.

Then, Mrs. Morgan read "Fly Away Home" to us. After that, she made us do a book report. We had to write a couple sentences about the story. It was cool because we got to use our glue sticks and draw birds on the cover.


By the time we got done with our reports, it was like after 2, and we still had cursive and science class to do before 3. I heard the teachers say that we wouldn't get to science which I didn't like because learning about the solar system is cool, like how Pluto is the dwarf planet on our solar-system display but scientists who do stuff in space say it's not even a planet now. I wish I understood why.

I forgot about that really fast though, when I looked outside the window and saw that the fourth-graders were playing kickball outside for recess! Man, we got gypped!!! Oh well.

We worked on the letter "a" and "c" today because they're kinda similar. The teachers said this isn't like our parents' cursive because we write straight up and down but our parents write on a slant. But like we've been told a couple times, their way isn't wrong, it's just different. (I like the new way better, though.) The student teacher showed us how to pick up the pencil the right way after one of the girls was wrapping her whole fist around it. I don't know how she can write that way, and Mrs. Morgan's worried that it might hurt her wrist when she's older. I hope not.

We did a bunch of lowercase c's and a's for the rest of the day and the bell finally went off around five of 3. At least it was nice enough outside now to go play Capture or Suicide.

Before I left, Mrs. Morgan asked me if I had fun and I told her yeah, I really did, because it was really fun to see little kids eager to learn. Even if the faces and names were different, except for Mr. Hoover, the gym teacher who's still there and still looks the same, it's refreshing to remember how being a kid can still be fun and innocent, if they're allowed to be, like we were at Strawbridge.

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