Tribe Tuesday: Third Grade Roots

A ride similar to ours on the way to Montana.

I was born in Montana to California natives. My parents had headed out from the San Francisco Bay Area to Alberta, Canada to find homestead land in 1969. They got as far as Great Falls, Montana. Mom would hang out in the trailer listening to Chicago Cubs games and keeping house while my Pop worked combines. They were recently married, 20 years old, full of ideas. When it was apparent that I was heading into their life, and they moved to Missoula. Here Pop simultaneously sold insurance and worked for the cemetary, a set of work/life bookends.

One year old, grown into my head. Sort of.

I was born in September 1970. There are photos of me from the three or four months we lived in Missoula before they headed back to California and lived in my Grandma Lucile’s basement. I have an impressively large noggin head. I feel like every photo of me at this time is so supremely ugly, because I had this really huge head on this really tiny body. Born at term on my due date, I was under 6 lbs. yet had a very large head. I still have a very.large.head. I tease my mom sometimes, that I was a baby that only a mother could love. Phew. I’m glad I grew into my head…mostly.

We moved back to Montana in 1979. That was the year that I was starting 4th grade. I started Kindergarten while I was still four in 1979, because in California the cut off is December 1.

It didn’t go well for me, being a fourth grader at the Yaak School in 1979.

I talk about it in another blog post, and some of the memories may or not be skewed from my own personal perspective. My sister and my mother both think there are some inaccuracies, and all I can say is I did my best. That’s not this story. This is the story of third grade.

I did 3rd grade twice. I did the second time in 3rd grade at the Yaak School, and it changed the trajectory of who I would become. I graduated in 1989 instead of 1988. I was able to vote my Senior year. But I didn’t graduate in the way I’d expected to. I didn’t graduate with my same-age peers. It took me a long time, some therapy, some perspective, and mostly teaching, to help me get over it finally. For a long time I had deep psychological scars about “not being enough,” “being dumb,” “not being a good student,” and “unable to do math.”

And here I am, living in Montana again for the first time since I was 17. And I’m teaching third grade. And yet, this third grade is marked with a pandemic and a loss of two and a half months of school. As I pack things up for my students it’s affecting me, and it’s affecting them. I have no idea what this experience is going to do to my students. I know it’s changed me forever.

Next year I’m teaching a second/third grade combo class. I’m genuinely excited, full of ideas, and truthfully a little scared. This is what life is…a combo pack.


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