The 5th Grade You

This week is my sons’ 5th grade continuation ceremony – an event that didn’t (at least when I was in 5th grade) have an equivalent in Australia – we simply said goodbye to primary school without much in the way of fanfare! Although, I didn’t grow up with this ceremony, I do appreciate the American way of recognizing milestones such as this, as it provides a  welcome opportunity for reflection as well as a celebration of all that has been accomplished (so far, at least…).

Marking the end of elementary school education is obviously a rite of passage and one that got me thinking about my own ‘5th grade’ self. What would I tell that girl if I had a chance to go back in time? I seem to remember that during my elementary years (primary school, as we call in in Australia) I was obsessed with becoming a scientist of some kind. I had chemistry kits, a microscope, telescope and various collections of minerals, stamps and coins. I adored animals, dinosaurs and couldn’t wait to learn about the stars…then came middle school and real science classes…which I loathed. So I guess the end of 5th grade was the end of that career dream! Although all through primary school I wrote stories and plays and poems, being a writer didn’t seem much like a career goal – more like a fun activity to while away the hours. Now elementary school is much more serious, with standardized tests, homework and far greater expectations than I ever had to deal with (we certainly had no formal state-mandated tests or homework!).

In some ways I mourn the loss of the elementary education I received – more because it seemed so unimportant at the time (I  never worried about report cards or grades).  If I could go back and talk to my 5th grade old self I would tell her to continue to enjoy the fact that school was something fun and (relatively) stress free – I would remind her how lucky she was to have the freedom to fail. I was fortunate I didn’t really need to concern myself with grades until much later in high school. I’m hoping to try to instill the same sense of perspective in my own boys but, sadly,  it’s a much more demanding world out there now.

As part of their 5th grade continuation ceremony, I was supposed to chose an appropriate dedication but, rather than embarrass my boys with typical ‘mum’ mush, I asked them to chose a quotation they thought was appropriate. Funnily enough they both chose a quote from Douglas Adams (author of a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy). Jasper chose “The knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” While Sam opted for: “I may not have gone where I intended to go but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

I think my 5th grade self would have been pretty happy with either of these quotations!

What about you? What would you say to your 5th grade old self if you had the chance to go back in time? What quotation would you chose for your 5th grade continuation ceremony?



17 thoughts on “The 5th Grade You

  1. Well 5th grade was such a long time ago (ahem) that I may not be remembering years and teachers rightly. But I’m pretty sure 5th grade was when I had English Teacher Mrs. Seese, who encouraged me very much in my writing. Also if memory serves, that year I won a poem contest that I got to read to the class (it’s so hokey now I’m embarrassed!) and I also wrote a story that got published in the county newspaper.

    I don’t have a quote from someone else I’d tell my 5th grade self. But I would go back and tell myself:

    Write often. Write a lot. No stopping. Slay the dream killers.

  2. Yikes…fifth grade was an awful year, when my family was in turmoil and I spent most the year hiding in libraries. I would tell my fifth-grade self: “Hand in there. It gets better.” And it did.

    • Hang in there, that is.

      Time for that second cup of coffee. I should not come into this room until I am properly caffeinated!

      • My advice would mirror Kris’s. I’d also add, “Quit reading Nancy Drews and start writing.”

        • I had to laugh as I read this because I came home with armloads at least half my height of Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys, Zane Grey etc.

          And in my adulthood I fritter away writing time reading books on writing instead. So your advice is definitely sound all across the age span.

  3. In Canada, when I was in 5th grade, we didn’t have middle schools, but I had a great teacher, Miss Beauchamps. Imagine learning grammar at a Grade 12 level. Imagine learning to speed read… perhaps I should blame/thank her for my reading addiction.

    I think I was a better person then. No worries so maybe it’s easier to be a good person with no worries.

    I guess I’d say, “Don’t worry; be happy.”

  4. I had a fifth grade quote, Clare, and I used it all through grade and high school as my motto. It’s by poet Delmore Schwartz. “In dreams begin responsibility.” What a solemn young geek I was. Maybe my quote should have been, “You’re in the fifth grade, for cripe’s sake. Go have fun.”

  5. I would quote to my 5th grade self from the words of King Solomon in Proverbs 23:13-14.

    Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.

    And I would also tell me, “Stop pissing off Mr Lemon…school spankings are still legal!!”

  6. Brad Paisley wrote a song along this line called “Letter to Me” ~ though his recipient was 17 and not a fifth grader.

    I’m old enough that the transition to JUNIOR high school happened at sixth grade, but as it happened, we moved from SE Florida to Central West Georgia for my sixth grade year.

    With that in mind, I’d tell myself to not think that just because I’d seen the subjects once already that I knew them well enough to skate by ’em, there’s more than one way to know how to do something, practice the guitar more, buy that bass in 5 years, and quit procrastinating ~ (it’s taken 40+ years to write myself this letter)


    Finally, I would have to go with Bruce Springsteen: “Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.”

  7. I just wish you had experienced much more exciting science teaching in high school, Clare, as I did! But then you would probably have become a nuclear physicist and we would have missed out on your creative writing mind!

  8. When I was in 5th grade, I never knew if I was smart or not. I really didn’t … At the end of the year, my dad came to school and told my teacher that I would be leaving school quite early this year. I thought, “Oh no … why is Dad doing that!!?!? I won’t pass 5th grade!” I simply listened to my dad and teacher talk. I was SHOCKED to learn that I had permission to actually leave 5th grade early, skip the end-of-the-year work, and I could STILL pass 5th grade. What my dad had not told me was I had to leave school early to see my brother graduate from the US Naval Academy so we made a trip to Washington DC. I learned more than I ever imagined!! So that trip replaced finishing 5th grade. SCORE.

    My favorite quote: I’ve been invited to the White House about five times. I think the greatest thing would be if they actually invited everybody to the White House every night… they’d just take about 500 people a night. Everybody would just love this country because it’s so thrilling to go there. It really is. Andy Warhol

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