6th Grade Matters
It was the Autumn of 1974 and I was just starting 6th grade at Pforzheim Elementary School in Pforzheim, Germany. It was the fifth elementary school I had attended in five years. As a child in a military family, it was not unusual for me to change schools, but it was very unusual to find myself in a tiny school sharing a teacher and a classroom with 4th and 5th graders. I wondered, “What am I going to learn with 4th and 5th graders in my class?” I was not happy. As a result, I had a terrible attitude, and I was rude to my classmates and my teacher. I remember frequently interrupting my teacher during class by blurting out “I already learned that!”, “I already know that” and “I learned that when I was 5 years old.” Finally, my teacher, Ms. Joan Maas, gently pulled me aside and said three things to me: 1) “You’re smart, but you’re not smarter than me” 2) “I can teach you” and 3) “You’re making the other children feel bad.” I went home and cried because it had never occurred to me that my words were hurtful, or that I made the other students feel bad.