My first school in Williamsburg was Magruder Elementary. Rumor had it that a woman from Hee-Haw lived across the street, but that was never confirmed. While third grade was a long time ago, I remember that the school seemed to have a connection to Americana. Besides the Hee-Haw rumor, Earle Hagen, who whistled the theme to the Andy Griffith Show, gave an assembly, and NASA showed up for a couple assemblies. I mean, heartland television, Andy, and space travel, what could be more American?

What really stuck out about my year there was the substitute teacher we had for so many weeks. My regular teacher became ill, so she took a leave. The sub started telling us a story about mongoose and cobras that was the highlight of the day, next to the Electric Company of course. The way he told the story was so intense and none of us had a clue that he was retelling Rikki Tikki Tavi. He never got to finish his version because our teacher returned, which was a good thing as her health was better, but from then on it was back to what was beginning to feel like real school that people were beginning to mention.

I think Magruder was the last time school was drama free. I can’t really remember any of my classmates, but my feelings for back then are so peaceful. I wish we could get that feeling back in schools. I fear, though, that the pressures on education have have changed the aura around schools for the worse. There is a rush to have kids grow up. The is an attitude that students can be reduced to investments and learning is somehow the sole responsibility of teachers. My guess is that it’s more complex than anyone can ever understand.

And that is why I love that I can remember third grade for the atmosphere.

Maybe Rikki Tikki will save the day again…