My last mymind was too long so I continued it here.
Mr. Masuda was great. He had this thing called the Hall-Of-Fame, where if you did extremely well in something, you’d get recognized for it. For example, our class often played around the world with math flash cards. If you were able to make it around the class, you’ve gone around the world. Well, that was my place on the hall of fame, for going around the class like 3 or 4 times or something. That’s pretty good if you think about it. Sorry, just tooting my own horn.
The other really cool thing about his class, and actually about my elementary school in general, was that the math instruction was self-paced. That I think was the greatest thing ever. There were 2 aspects to this. One was these little tests he had. I think there were like 20 of them? Maybe more. But it was done like you have 5 or ten minutes to do them, and if you do sufficiently well, the next time we take the test you go onto the next level. If you don’t, you stay on the same level. I remember level 20 was just totally hard. But it was cool, because you went as far as you could, not as far as the class could.
But the huge breakthrough was self-paced math. The way it worked was for every chapter in the math book, you take a pretest. If you do really well on the pretest (like > 95% or so) then you don’t even have to go through that chapter, you just move on to the next chapter. If you don’t do well enough, based on your results on the test, you do certain sections in the chapter, not necessarily the whole thing. Then you take the posttest. And if you pass, you go on. If you don’t, again, based on the results, you do certain sections of the chapter again. It could be tedious, but generally most people didn’t have to repeat chapters too much.
Anyway, think about how great that system is. It lets you move at your own pace. The teacher only has to grade the test and assign chapters, and everything else is student based. I thought that was awesome, and always wondered how a lowly school like ours had such a great math system. Anyway, if you did well enough on enough pretests, you could just fly by. And if you were committed enough, and did all the homework for a chapter really quickly, you could also fly by. So I did. Me and my good friend Yash got through the 6th grade textbooks in 3rd grade! Think about that. That’s so cool.
Anyway, it was my desire that I dominate the hall of fame in the math categories, but Yash got the hall of fame for most sections finished in one day (night). The thing is, he did like the sections for a bunch of chapters, but he wasn’t assigned all of them, he just did them. So he made the hall of fame, but he did a bunch of work he didn’t have to do. And I could have beat that, but I was never willing to do work I didn’t have to do, you know?
Mr. Masuda also had weekly spelling tests. He would say the word, then use it in a sentence, and then say the word again. I usually did really well, except this one week the word was “weather”, but the sentence he used was like “I don’t know whether the weather will be good or whether the weather will be bad.” He was amused because it was so clever but I was angry. I guess it was clear which weather he meant because we would actually be given the lists to study ahead of time but come on, I never studied them since I just knew them, so since I had not seen the list, I could not know which weather he meant. So I guessed and I was wrong and I remember being very angry about that.
Anyway, me and Yash got pretty far in Math and in fact were ready for Pre-Algebra in 4th grade. And they were ready to bus us to the local high school (Santa Teresa) to do it, but then decided it wasn’t cost-effective to do that, send a bus for just 2 kids. So we ended up learning no new math for 3 years. Which kind of sucked, but what can you do. I always think about where me and Yash would be if they had let us go further. We could have both been Bev Yangs. Actually, I almost could have been a Bev Yang. She did Calculus in this program that I actually got mail for, but my family decided there would be no way to get me to Foothill College to do that.
In 4th grade we moved to Mrs. Bowden’s class. But something happened here, and like the 3rd grade GATE program was gone. But they didn’t want that, so Mrs. Bowden on the side received 4 3rd graders some of the time. Who were they? I can’t remember. Probably Dean Campbell, Danny Choi, Julie Applegarth and someone else. But I can’t remember. Anyway, what this meant was that 2 people had to be pushed out of Mrs. Bowden’s class and those 2 were me and Yash. We were put into Mrs. Smith’s 5th and 6th grade GATE class. That was without question the hardest time of my life. Traditionally, Mrs. Bowden’s class was used as prep for Mrs. Smith’s but me and Yash didn’t get that. So it was just hard.
Another thing was we hooked up with the wrong people. You know, we were bright eyed 4th graders, in a class with people 2 years older than us, so we needed like mentoring or help or something. Well it ended up for a long time we hooked up with this guy Matt Barker (I think that was his name) who was a year older. The only thing is, Matt was a total slacker. So he wasn’t the best influence in the world. Anyway, that year was hellish. I failed virtually every binder/desk check and was constantly writing lines. Also, I never wrote things down, so I was always forgetting to bring things back signed and stuff like that. It sucked. Plus all our friends (me and Yash) weren’t in our class. It’s difficult to explain how difficult that was. Especially breaking up the 3 amigos.
Another thing she did was she had us do reports all the time. Then everyone would have to give a 10 minute speech on the report, with a poster and everything. That’s pretty tough for kids so young. At the end, you’d have 6 questions, the answers to which you’d give during the speech. These questions were the basis of the test for that time. So 6 questions, 30 students, that’s 180 questions and answers you had to memorize. Not easy. Plus I was super lazy. So me and Yash did pretty bad when we first got there. Our first test was on the Presidents (each person did a report on Presidents, and no one did the really famous ones a la Washington, Lincoln, etc.) and we’d have to know facts like when was so and so elected, where was so and so born, etc. Well me and Yash did terrible. One of us got a 54% and the other a 45%. That was a wake-up call. Also we worked in groups, and we had a group average in addition to our individual average. Which was an interesting idea, because that meant someone else slacking could bring you down (the groups were averaged out so there were the same number of smart and dumb people in each group), so you really had to encourage others to study. My first time Cabrelle was my group leader. That was tense because she lived across the street but she never talked to me and then all of a sudden she was stopping by to remind me to study. It was tense for her and tense for me. And I still did badly.
The first report I had to do was on diseases. I remember Yash did his on AIDS, and this was in like 1986 or so so it still wasn’t nearly as big a deal as it is now. I still remember that. Everyone still thought it was a gay-man’s disease. Anyway, the way he gave the report, he made it sound like zap, you touch a person with AIDS and you get AIDS. But it was hard to describe it otherwise, because all you can talk about is an exchange of bodily fluids and what does that really mean to kids who haven’t really had sex-ed yet? I did mine on Alzheimer’s Disease. I think we got better at those tests.
We also had geography tests. Every year, we’d basically go through the whole globe. The way it worked was this: you have a blank map with numbers, then on paper you write the name of the country next to the number, along with the capital. We started with the U.S. States, then did Central / South America, then Europe, then Africa (Africa was always one of the hardest) and then Asia. I think that’s pretty good for an elementary school class, knowing all the countries and capitals, plus where they are, in the world. It was a tough, but good class. Anyway, I still can’t forget random things like the capital of Andorra is Andorra La Vella and stuff like that. My favorite capital was Tegucigalpa. Is that you spell it? What a great name.
Our school also had a lot of student teachers and substitutes. The student teachers were I guess people trying to get their teaching credential so they work with a teacher for a while. We had this one student teacher for Mr. Masuda – I forgot his name, but he was a great guy. Then later in 6th grade, he was our subsitute teacher for a while, and we were all excited because we knew him, but somehow, becoming a sub had made him meaner, and we couldn’t understand how such a great guy became so mean. I guess being a sub will do that to you. We were brutal to subs, as I guess everyone was. I think our favorite was this guy, I forget his name, maybe Mr. Cousins? But he was buff and athletic and to get out of class for recess / lunch we would have to answer his sports trivia questions. Great. He once played for the faculty in the annual students vs. faculty softball game and he hit the ball so far; it was like a home run in a ballpark, he hit it so hard. He hit it out of the field, past the next field, and out of the school yard onto the street. The next time he came up, all the outfielders sat way out on the fence separating the school from the street.
Anyway, like I mentioned, our teacher really wanted us to win the softball intramurals, to get over this “nerd” stereotype, I suppose. Anyway, in 5th grade our team name was something like “Smith’s Smashers” or something. Which is all right. But I thought it would be cool if we could be clever with her name, and be something like the “SilverSmiths” or something. Not the most ferocious name in the world, but I thought it was so clever. SilverSmiths. Great. Anyway, in 6th grade I got my wish and we were the SilverSmiths even though all the girls thought it was lame. What do girls know. But it’s crazy how dumb adults can be. I mean, we made the name solely for the word play, but during announcements, the teachers doing it never seemed to know what to say. “Today, on field #2, Crawford’s Crashers play the … what is this, the Smiths. the Silver… the Smiths Silversmiths.” Groan. We didn’t want to be the Smith Silversmiths you idiot, it’s the SilverSmiths. But they always made that mistake.
The more I think about it, the more I realize how bad my 4th grade year was. I just dreaded going to school every day. There’s no worse feeling than that kind of dread, where you know something bad is going to happen to you every day, and all you want is for the day to end so you can end the suffering. Kids are too young to have to go through that kind of stuff. The worst thing was every 4th grader had to do a