Video courtesy of the LFHS New Media Department.
Turns out, there isn’t as much of a difference between a first grader and a high schooler as you might think. Sure, the difference in height might be a bit extreme, and our opinions on naps may have taken a complete 180, but some things never change. For example, ask a first grader their thoughts on their favorite part of the school day.
What’s the best part about school? A short moment of hesitation, mentally running through the many activities and lessons of a school day, and then a definite answer with a mischievous grin: “Going home!”
Ask your average high schooler, and they will give an answer with very similar sentiments.
By the time we hit junior year of high school, first grade, believe it or not, was exactly 10 years ago. No matter the elementary school we went to, the experience was pretty universal: there were some cringe-worthy aspects–braces, unfortunate fashion statements (remember Silly Bandz and Crocs?)–but, overall, remembered as a time of innocent happiness and joy for the simple things in life.
(Not to say that high school is place completely devoid of happiness and joy, but the hectic schedule and homework doesn’t help…)
We emerge from those ten years as full-grown high schoolers, and as we look into colleges and our futures as adults, we can’t help but look back at our childhood with fondness.
Knowing that I can’t physically go back in time to ask my six year-old self my thoughts on the future and my day-to-day activities, I decided to do the next best thing and ask the first graders of 2017 instead–what’s the best thing about first grade? The absolute worst thing? How’s the homework load? What do you think high school will be like? What are you most excited for?
On a sunny Thursday afternoon I, accompanied by my fellow Forest Scout writers Grace Scheidler and Erika Marchant, as well as a small New Media group who were coming to film the interviews, walked a quarter of a mile down the road from the high school to Sheridan Elementary School to peek into the daily life of a first grader.
The classroom, upon arrival, was a bright and cheerful place, full of lively chatter and laughter. (It was a small class, a boy, Thatcher, later told us–only 19 kids. His brother’s kindergarten class had 27!)
Colorful motivational posters hung alongside the students’ hand drawn artwork on the walls, the chairs and tables maxing out at about 2 and ½ feet tall, and their backpacks resting in cubbies in the side of the room. The first graders were scattered across the classroom in their end-of-the-day Extra Learning Time (ELT), reading books to one another, writing on their own, and playing math games.
After introducing ourselves to the class, we took our seats at the miniscule tables, turned on a voice recording memo on our phones, and delved into the world of Ms. Volpe’s first grade class.
Right off the bat, the general consensus was that first grade, for the most part, was not hard. However, there were some aspects that made it a lot tougher than kindergarten. “Well, I know the worst part about first grade–it’s the homework!” One girl named Sarah declared. “It’s not hard though. And we only get them on Mondays.” Her classmate Claire chimed in, “Ooh, and also in first grade, there’s also a lot more learning and less time to play.”
At the time of the interview, Ms. Volpe’s class had just finished learning about the Pilgrims, and were also learning math, reading, writing, and typing. It was immediately made obvious that the types of students never really change, no matter if it’s elementary or high school. One boy, when asked what they were studying, shrugged and grinned. “I don’t pay attention.” Another, however, exclaimed about the Pilgrims unit, “It was fun! We got to make books and posters, we could also like make a piece of paper and make trees and stuff. They’re on the wall there!”
High school, surprisingly, was not thought of much by the first graders of Ms. Volpe’s class. High schoolers, according to them, only ever played sports (many of them had seen their siblings play for the Scouts or been a waterboy at a football game), did homework, and babysat.
Not the exactly the coolest things they could be doing, according to two boys, Thatcher and Egan.
“Do you think high schoolers are cool?”
“Not really,” they laughed.
However, Thatcher and Egan didn’t know much about what exactly made a person “cool”. “I don’t know, but I know what the weird kids do. They wear sunglasses!”
“Inside, or just any time?”
“Inside,” Thatcher clarified.
Egan added, “Nobody would recognize them.”
There weren’t many aspects about being 16 that the first graders knew of and were excited about either. They are, however, more than eager to step behind the wheel and hit the streets of Lake Forest with the freedom only a driver’s license can grant.
“Where would you go if you could drive?”
“Ooh,” said one girl, Francesca, “if I could drive, I would go to Sweets everyday!”
“Hmm,” responded another girl, Cyla, “I could go…no, I couldn’t go to Paris because that’s across the ocean…I would go to the airport!”
Just because the first graders didn’t think much about high school did not mean that they didn’t plan just a bit ahead for the future. Thatcher and Egan, for example, had some pretty good ideas about what they wanted to do when they were older.
“Hockey player, maybe football player,” Thatcher said. “Mad scientist maybe…They mostly do funny stuff. Like a mad scientist came in the gym and did funny stuff. Remember the cat with the rocket?”
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking about!” Egan responded. “I might want to be a magician.”
“What would you guys do with one million dollars?
Egan giggled, “I’d get something that costs two million dollars.”
“You’d spend it all on one thing!?”
“Only if it was awesome,” Egan assured us.
Thatcher, however, had different plans. “I’d build my own tree house. And get a lot of Nerf guns. Have you ever got shot by a Nerf gun in the eye?”
“Have you ever been shot by a Nerf gun that shoots two bullets in the eye?” Egan grinned, his laughter joining the rest of the laughter that filled the sunny classroom.
In that brief hour we spent in Ms. Volpe’s animated first grade classroom, bursting with the life of the first graders that learned and grew in the class-art adorned walls and 2 and a ½ feet tall tables, we were transported, for a brief time, back to the simply joys of childhood and the excitement for life that comes with it. Simple joys such as buying ice cream from Sweets because we have a car that can get us there, playing football with our friends at recess, or winning a million dollars and buying nothing but nerf guns and tree houses. Simple joys that can remind us of the carefree laughter and wonder of childhood (even if they are just wondering if you’ve ever been shot by a nerf gun in the eye).