How to Turn a Kid Into a 4th Grade Social Pariah in Just Two Sentences

First Published 2011 @ Braintropolis

Third grade was an interesting one for me at Bene. It was the year I “skipped a grade” and was moved up to be with a 4th grade class. Six of us had that privilege — three boys and three girls — and I think all six ended up with more of an “education” than we really bargained for.

Bene, you see, despite all its “experimental school” posturing, was one of those institutions that put students in groups (sections) based on their, well, “performance.” The 4th graders at that point had three sections with about 30 or so students each: the smart section, the average section, and the section for thugs and misfits. Us six “smartest of the smart” 3rd graders, of course, were moved to the next immediate logical section up — yup, we were offered up as sacrificial virgins to the volcano class of not only bigger and older kids, but the biggest and baddest of the lot.

OK, it wasn’t that bad. True, the class was made up mostly of big, bad boys a full year older than us — some even more so since a number of them had already been held back a year… at least — but not only did we manage to get along great with these guys, being with them for a few years frankly was what probably made the whole school thing really worth it for the sacrificial six, a school-sanctioned experience we’d really be hard-pressed to duplicate anywhere today. Not to mention that it’s given me tons of stuff to write about.

It’s no surprise that we six became instant teacher’s pets. Some of us more so than others, but the six got called on frequently and, well, religiously to do all that extra stuff teachers want pets to do. None of us volunteered for any of it, mind you; the teachers just tossed us the bones automatically.

Well, at English class the first school day of August (our school year starts in June), our teacher dropped a bombshell on our linguistic laps: “August is English-speaking month,” she announced. “Learning to speak English well is very important. Therefore, for the whole month of August, you’re only allowed to speak English in school.”

Now, I don’t know if they still do that sort of thing today. I would, in fact, doubt it highly. It’s not like I haven’t been getting periodic reports of really questionable proposals by the Philippine Department of Education, such as start teaching Math and Science completely in Tagalog (yeah, really high demand for that in the global economy, dipshits, way to get your kids competitive). Of course, the English-only month’s extreme. But hey, this was 1975. This stuff flew back then.

But our teacher wasn’t finished. “To make sure you all speak English this month, you will be fined 10 centavos for every Tagalog word you are heard saying on school grounds.”

Ten centavos was definitely not chump change back in 75, least of all to 9 and 10-year-olds.

Get ready for the two sentences.

“To keep track of infractions, there will be secret police among you.”

Now, the one additional sentence guaranteed I would have no school friends for a month:

“Eldon, please see me after class.”

Oholymotherofg… sheesh. To this day I’m still at a loss for words.