Looking back at my academic career, I can honestly say I wasn’t a model student at any level during my education. 

By the time I started second grade, I figured that wasn’t much else I needed to know. I could read, write, add and subtract, tell time and count money. I also learned that girls gave you cooties. 

When I started second grade, it was more of the same stuff — spelling tests, match test and so forth. Then something new came along — diagramming sentences. I’m not sure what I was supposed to learn from this. I knew what a noun and a verb were. I knew what an adjective and an article were. I could make a complete sentence. So, why did I have to learn how to put all of these things into a diagram?

To this day, I still don’t know what the purpose of diagramming a sentence was. In my entire life, a situation has never arisen when I diagrammed a sentence. 

So, instead of diagramming sentences, I learned a lesson about haggling, what I considered the proper use of a pencil sharpener and management of resources. 

Every day we had a break about 10:30 in the morning. We could go to the snack machine and buy a soda and a bag of chips. We could also go to Mrs. Harris’ room and buy school supplies. 

Mrs. Harris sold paper and pencils and just about anything else you needed for school. You could buy a pencil for a nickel or six for a quarter. One day I asked if I could get 28 (I had to add up 7+7+7+7=28 because I hadn’t learned about multiplication yet) for a dollar. Sure enough, she agreed to the deal. 

So, I went back and sharpened my 28 pencils to a very fine point. Then, when my teacher, Mrs. Senn, turned her back to diagram a sentence, I proceed to try and stick the pencils in the ceiling tile. 

I managed to get three or four to stick in the ceiling. There were a few other kids that were trying it as well. Well, we got a little too excited and got caught. Mrs. Senn told us to go sit in the teacher’s lounge, and we would get a paddling before we went to lunch.  

I wasn’t too worried about a paddling. She used one of those paddles that have a rubber band attached to a rubber ball. Growing up, my little sister had hit me with a baseball bat, a meat mallet and a broken table leg, among other things. So, a little paddle didn’t strike much terror in me. 

There were three of us sitting around in a little room with a bunch of cabinets and drawers. The lounge opened to four different classrooms so all the teachers in the building could hide from the children if they got overwhelmed. 

Well, putting three boys in a room with no adult supervision isn’t a good idea. All of the drawers had labels on them. So, we moved the paper and put it in the tape drawer. We put the tape in the manila folders drawer and so forth. 

When we got done with that, one of us got the bright idea to hide in the cabinets and see what happened. The cabinets were empty, so we got inside and closed the doors. 

A while later, Mrs. Senn came in and we were gone. She started going from classroom to classroom asking the other teachers if three boys came through. The next thing we knew there was a teacher conference in the room and they were all looking for us. 

At that point, we figured we were trouble for more than throwing pencils in the ceiling. When they left, we decided we’d just sit around the table like we had  been there the whole time. 

We’ll that didn’t pan out. We got a trip to the principal’s office. He had a paddle with holes drilled in it. Over the next few years, I can’t say I was very fond of that paddle. But, on that day, I was just glad none of them opened up the  drawers in the teacher’s lounge.

Huck Treadwell’s column appears Tuesdays. 


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