Elementary school was hard for me. Not in the academic sense, but in the social, friend-making sense. Kindergarten was a blur of crafts, snacks and story time. I believe I kept mostly to myself. First grade came around and I struggled initially with reading. Once I caught on, I never stopped. My mom affectionally called me, "Frieda-nose-in-the-book."
I recall having reading contests in second grade to see who could read the most books. I won, and was gifted with a mystery book, inscribed with a message from my teacher. I still have that book to this day.
Second grade was when the teasing started. Or at least, when I noticed that the teasing started. Being hearing impaired, it is a blessing not to be able to hear the hurtful things that are being said. When I don't respond, it either goes away or someone decides to up the ante.
One day, I couldn't find my coat where it should be hanging outside the classroom. Someone told me that a particular girl put it in the lost and found. She was upset when I "found" my coat and we got into a verbal, fighting match. I don't think it lasted long, as it was after school and we had to run to catch the bus.
Third grade wasn't much better. We had to individually stand in the front of the classroom and orally recite our times tables. In the middle of the year, a new girl was introduced to the class. A girl that wore a different kind of hearing aid. One that you could see. After meeting and talking with her, I discovered that her hearing loss was more profound than mine. That explained her ultra-powerful hearing aids that had wires connected to a box that was in her pocket. She, too, did not like getting up in front of the class to recite her times tables. Her voice was different, and she struggled with pronouncing certain words. I finally felt like I could connect with someone and we became friends.
On the bus ride to school, I noticed a pen that was stuck beneath the heater. While I was trying to pry it out, one of the school bullies pushed me aside, also trying to get the pen. When he couldn't get it out, he started yelling at me, telling me it was my fault that 'his' pen got stuck in the heater. I ignored him and shrugged it off.
Later, during recess, that same bully climbed on top of a playground gym and jumped onto my back, knocking me down to the ground. I rolled over, and pinned his arms and legs down, a trick I learned from wrestling with my brothers.
He began screaming and spitting into my face. After a couple of minutes, I let him go and gave him a swift kick in the behind. I went to class, thinking it was over. During the next recess, my teacher called me over and disciplined me, saying that "girls should not fight" and kept me in for recess.
Fourth and fifth grades came and went and I had some fabulous teachers. My fifth grade teacher had a brace on her leg and understood kids who didn't fit in. She loved putting her arms around the kids. She said what she meant and meant what she said.
She said a swear word in class and immediately asked me to go to the teacher's lounge and get her a diet Tab drink. Looking at her and watching her chewing on a bite of soap spurred me to action. When I came back, she had swallowed the bite of soap. And drank the Tab.
In the middle of sixth grade, our new school two blocks down the road was finished. We carried chairs down the street and marveled at the new building. It was different. The first thing I noticed was the classrooms did not have walls. They were called, "open" classrooms. Very quickly, I noticed how echo-y everything sounded and it was very difficult to understand everything that was said.
I noticed that the school bully had a friend. He was also a bully. They would get into trouble a lot. One teacher even locked up one of the bullies in a closet. We could hear him screaming, and then crying.
During recess, one of those bullies had an aluminum bat. He swung it at me and I turned my head. The bat landed on my hearing aid, cracking the shell. I remember my mom meeting with the principal and then sending in the aid to be fixed.
I was so looking forward to seventh grade.