Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 The 8th-grader

Today is such a cool date, what more is there to say?

Since it was Veteran's Day, both the school and CDC were closed, so the kids went to Tonya's so that Dave could go to work, and I could attend the last day of my training session (which regrettably was nowhere near as useful as it could have been, and I left at 3:30).

I got a Facebook message from someone I would never have remembered if he hadn't message'd me -- someone I barely knew in junior high school, but through another mutual junior-high-school friend (who I'm still in touch with), contacted me. It turns out my former 8th-grade classmate lives nearby, though our mutual friend is still in New York.

He mentioned he no longer had a class picture to remind me what he looks like, but I found my old junior-high yearbook and scanned his class photo to send to him. And mine while I was at it. I'm at the far lower right -- always in the corner because of either being a 'B' or the shortest one in class.

The thing I find really striking is that I remember our school being crammed with kids, so crowded between classes that you could barely move down the halls. Yet there were only 24 kids in my 8th-grade homeroom -- during the time that NYC was in such financial straits that it was firing teachers left and right and declaring bankruptcy?? How could that be?

Some of the answer comes from looking farther in the yearbook. I also sort-of remember that the classes were organized by skill level. In 7th grade, the classes were called "7-1, 7-2, 7-3..." etc, but those numbers weren't random. "7-1" was the highest-functioning class, with "7-21" or whatever it was, the least. "7-21" was filled with teenagers, many had been held back, had trouble with the law, dropped out due to pregnancy, most on welfare. "7-1" had all the caucasian kids (all 10-12 of us) and those who were working at grade level. This did not make for a friendly social environment for a short small white kid used to private school, let me tell you.

In 8th grade, it appears they renamed some of the classes to colors. I doubt that being in a "Gold" class did much for my reputation. That was the year that my former best friend tried to start a fight with me with the whole school following us chanting "Fight! Fight! Fight!" as she repeatedly pushed me.

Anyway, I notice that my "Gold" class had 24 kids, but some of the "8-number" classes had as many as 37 kids. And what little racial diversity we few Caucasians brought in was lost there. My memory was of the school being mostly black, with some Puerto-Rican, but photos show that even the black kids were in the minority -- most were Puerto Rican. Even in my "upper" class, there's only one other white kid in it.

It's almost funny that my own children have the same racial-minority experience -- but very very drastic difference culturally!


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