Tag Archive for Catholic School memory

Overheard: “Dad, NOBODY goes to bathroom in school.” (Parenting a Middle Schooler: The Joyful Saga, pt. 2)

I work at home, so I’m aware when Gavin and Maggie return from middle school — I can hear them scurrying to the bathrooms. It’s a sprint. The quickest gets the bathroom off the main hallway, while the slower one hustles upstairs.

I’m not kidding. This is often the scene when they get home.

How often? Oh, hmmm, let me see, by my calculation . . . EVERY SINGLE DAY!

I ask, “Don’t they have bathrooms in that school?”

Gavin is politely dismissive. “Dad, NOBODY goes to bathroom in school.”


Could that be possible?

I decided to do a little research. So I staked out the main access road from the middle school, and lo, it was true. I saw students under heavy backpacks making the long trek home, like water-retaining camels filing across the open desert.

They all had to go, every single one of those kids. You could tell by the short quick strides and the crazy eyes.

No wonder they don’t learn anything in school these days. How can our children concentrate on multiplying integers when they sit with legs crossed and teeth clenched, thisclose to catastrophe?

If we want to improve test scores, maybe there’s an easy, low-cost solution in these days of fiscal belt-tightening: Make ’em pee, that’ll help with their learnin’.

Back in my day at St. Frances de Chantal Elementary School in Wantagh, Long Island, we were required to get on “lavatory line” twice daily. Everybody. No options. We stood outside in the hallway — “No talking, Mr. Preller!” — and went into the big, cool bathroom five at a time. It smelled of vomit, ammonia, and urinal cakes composed of naphthalene and para-dichlorobenzene (both later found to be hazardous to our health, like the asbestos in the ceiling). After lunch, we lined up again. We were like dogs they took for walks. It worked. We did our business.

And we learned, boy, did we learn.

I used to think it was because of the discipline of the classrooms. Those no-nonsense nuns. The golden ruler. But maybe it was the lavatory line.

Oh, wait. Hold on. Hear that double-flush? My kids are home!

Thanks for listening.

Note: I found this illustration in cyberland.

It’s by Greg Clarke, and I love it.

Fan Mail Wednesday #106 (Friday Edition)

Here’s an easy one!

Hi, My name is Sheyanne and I live in Watseka, Illinois. I am in 5th grade, and I am doing a book report on The Case of the Haunted Scarecrow and one of the questions I have to answer is where did you attend school at in 5th grade? If you could answer my question I would be very thankful.
I replied:

Sheyanne, I attended St. Frances de Chantal Elementary School in Wantagh, New York, from grades 1-6. It was a Catholic school and we had to wear uniforms: dark green pants, white shirt, green tie. After sixth grade I transferred out early to attend public school and wear normal clothes.
It was better for the girls, though. They got to wear pink go-go boots with these really cool fringe leather vests that . . . no, not really. In fact, they wore ties, too. And high, thick green socks. Every girl in 5th grade had sweaty, itchy ankles. You need proof?
Here’s a photo of my 5th grade class with Sister Mary Edna. Count how many kids are in that picture: 23 boys, 18 girls. Yikes. There were no teacher’s aides in those days, just Sister Mary Edna and her strict rules and golden ruler.
Oh, what? Which one am I? Top shelf, fifth from the left. True story: One day we were on line to go to P.E. (in the auditorium, because we didn’t have a real gym, or a lunch room, btw). Anyway, Sister Mary Edna summoned me to her desk. She looked at me, slapped me across the face, and said, “Get a haircut!”
Guess what? I got a haircut.
POSTSCRIPT: I heard back from Sheyanne and have to share her sweet reply:
thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love your books!!!!