Skipping School

I’m back in the area. We’re renting a house in Rockland for the summer. There’s a basketball hoop in the driveway. It’s just like old times. I’m reminded — all at once — of where I come from and where I’ve been.

When I was in 5th grade, I skipped school a lot. I think I skipped over 40 days of school that year. I would stay home and play Nintendo — the original Nintendo in all its 8-bit glory. Zelda. Master Blaster. Super Mario Bros.

Some days, a friend of mine would skip with me. He lived up the street and was in 4th grade. Other days, I would stay home alone. I got caught a couple times, but mostly, I got away with it. You can’t blame my mother. She worked during the day and had no idea because my teacher never reported me absent. I think she was happy when I didn’t show up. Things were different back then.

My 5th grade teacher was named Mrs. Gould — a name that fit her well — and there was no love lost between us. She was old and cranky. I was young and rambunctious. Mrs. Gould had also taught my older brothers. I’m sure they gave her the fits.

Years later, when she saw my name on her class roster, she already had my number. Another one of those Sewell boys. She treated me accordingly. I was made to feel stupid. I was made out as a problem child. I was made to feel like a waste of her time. I played the part. I acted up. I was a wise-ass. I got detention a lot.

My school had a program called “Gifted and Talented.” Students from our class that were deemed smart enough were placed in the program. On occasion, they would be taken out of class and brought to another room to take part in lessons that better matched their intellectual and creative acumen. I was never selected for the “Gifted and Talented” program. They evaluated me for special education. I didn’t get into that either.

I think I learned a lot that year — just not the stuff they were trying to teach me.

I learned that people will try to label you and tell you what you are and are not capable of doing. I also learned that you can resist this. You can make up your own mind. I learned it’s never too late to change course.

I also learned where all the warp levels were in Super Mario Bros.


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