Second grader for a day

In ninth grade I was given a vital piece of information about writing that would stick with me permanently throughout my life.  My English teacher, whose name I sadly do not remember, told the class, “Write about what you know.  If you do that, you’ll always write your best”.  Thus far, I have found her tidbit of advice not only true but essential to my work… which is why I had to become a second grader for a day.

Initially, I submitted a manuscript to my lovely agent, Brianne Johnson, who thought I should add some interaction between my main character and his classmates as opposed to his parents.  So, back to the drawing board I went.  Only, when I got back to my drawing board, I was staring at a blank computer screen.  How could I possibly write about the school day of a second grader when I knew nothing about it aside from the routine bell ringing and teacher lecturing that remained a constant routine throughout the years?  Then, my internal light bulb brightened.  If I was going to write about a second grader, I needed to become a second grader.

I contacted Jennifer Latimer, the librarian of Clinton Elementary School in Maplewood, NJ.  I had visited the school before for an author’s visit and fell in love with the diversity and vibe of its students and staff.  It also helped that the school is five minutes from my house.   In order to be on time for class, I needed a quick commute.  Did you know elementary school starts at 8am?!  I had conveniently expunged that part of my academic career from my memory.

Ms. Pomares’ class welcomed me with open arms as I tried to blend in with the youth around me, which wasn’t difficult considering I was about the same height as most of my classmates.  I sat in the back of the classroom, as I always did throughout my school years, and became a fly on the wall.  I had an amazing experience and got all the research I needed after a day of observation and socialization.  I also learned a few things, some of which I will share:

  1.  I have to watch “Dog with a Blog” to see what all the fuss is about.  Maybe it will teach me to blog effectively.
  2. Students move about a lot more in the classroom than they did when I was a kid.
  3.  Soda is not allowed in school anymore.
  4. Four square is still played during recess.
  5. One Direction makes the girls go nuts and the boys moan and groan.
  6. Eight year olds can manipulate ipads and ipods better than me.
  7. Skateboarding is very cool.
  8.  I still know the words to the Pledge of Allegiance.
  9. I could never be a teacher.
  10. Fractions still suck.

 

Upon reflection of my day, I came upon a major realization that would help me rewrite my manuscript.  My grandmother was right.  Loosely translated, she always told me, “Times may change, but people do not change”.  Kids are still kids.  As many technological advances as there have been, girls still play with dolls, boys still love sports, and recess is always the best part of the school day.  Children will always rush through the doors as the bell rings in the morning as quickly as they run out of them when the dismissal bell chimes in the afternoon.  All in all, I knew more about being an elementary school student than I thought.  I just needed Ms. Pomares’ class to help connect my inner second grader with the second graders of today, which is a homework assignment all we adults should have.