Sunday, April 15, 2007

What Stays in Our Brains

My friend Pat recently ended a blog post asking if anyone remembered the words to the Schoolhouse Rock song, Conjunction Junction What's Your Function?

That got me started --reciting all the poetry, prose and politcal stuff that I was required to memorize in the 5th and 6th grades.

In fifth grade, one of my three teachers (each taught different subjects and we switched rooms throughout the day --broke up the monontony for all involved) was Mrs. Stewart. Mrs. Stewart was one I considered your typical spinster - ready to retire any minute - teacher. Very brusque. Very strict. Very cut and dry. Very politically minded. Watergate was the current event of the year that I was in grade five and Mrs. Stewart encouraged us daily to "watch the news! This is history in the making!!" I didn't watch the news. I was more interested in riding my bike to Faith Country Chapel and back (probably a ten mile round trip?) unbeknownest to my parents who couldn't believe it when I told them that Bobbi Jo and I had ridden clear out to FCC. Anyway...I digress.

Mrs. Stewart had a long list of things that we were required to memorize in order to pass fifth grade. Here is the abridged list:

The Gettysburg Address
The Preamble to the Constitution
All 50 states and their capitals
All the US Presidents and Vice Presidents
The helping verbs
The Blue and the Gray by Francis Miles Finch
Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadworth Longfellow

There were many more --the above are just the highlights. I can recite all of the above -to this day - with the exception of the presidents and the state capitals. There are some that I miss.

In sixth grade, Miss Gilchrist also required us to memorize things. Here are just a couple of the dozens of things that I memorized in order to pass sixth grade:

The Children's Hour by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Come Little Leaves by George Cooper
September by Helen Hunt Jackson

To this day, on the first of September, I nauseate anyone who will listen as I begin reciting the poem by Helen Hunt Jackson --and I keep reciting it --OVER and OVER again --each and every day --many times a day --until October 1st, when I put the poem to rest in my brain until the next year when I see that yellow golden rod and corn turning brown which always puts me in the "poetry zone". I've actually had friends over the years who have taken the long way home to avoid driving past the corn fields because they don't want to hear me repeat one more line of that poem.

I intend to teach Olivia the poem so that long after I have gone to my heavenly home, she may carry on the tradition of nauseating all those around her.

What did you have to memorize in school?


Arlene said...

I can't remember what I had to memorize in school, but I think you should probably go on that show, "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader". It seems like you still pretty much know everything you would need.

Pat said...

You have a remarkable memory - I feel sorry for your friends!!:)
The older I get it seems my memory gets more fine tuned of the earlier times in my life. I can't remember where my car keys are, but I can remember the glasses my teacher wore in second grade, and almost a word for word description of her trip to Italy. I'm pretty sure that's a sign of old age! Before long, I won't even remember that I have a car, let alone where the keys are!!

Janet Rubin said...

I can't remember either! I do remember what I had to memorize in Sunday School- the Ten Commandments, Psalm 23, John 3:16... Now I'm an AWANA leader and know more scripture than ever. I want to memorize poetry. It's on my list of things to do:)

Jada's Gigi said...

I can't believe you remember all those...all I remember from elementary school...or all of school come to think of the songs we learned for the spring play every year..:)

Margie said...

I remember Ickle Me, Tickle Me, Pickle Me too by Shel Silverstein but I didn't HAVE to memorize it, it made my aunt who was handicapped laugh.

I had to memorize my times tables