Mom Goes Back to 5th Grade to Find Nothing's Changed (About Herself)

classroom signs 5th gradeDo you remember fifth grade? For me, it's one of those school years I remember in minute detail ... it was the year I was obsessed with maintaining my long string of gold stars on the class Spelling chart but also the year I barely survived the disappointed look on my beloved teacher's face when I got my first "C." I roller skated everywhere, wore lots of rainbow things, and had horrifying boy crushes that only lived locked inside my Dear Diary. Fifth grade was totally intense. A year of so many new expectations and feelings.

Well, because I always love to keep a steady stream of anxiety pumping through my body, I decided to go back to fifth grade for a day to see if it's still the same as I remembered it. Pen and notebook in hand, I was in my desk by the first school bell and I stayed all day long through lessons and recesses and lunch and even math.

You won't believe all the stuff that hasn't changed one bit!

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math algebra notebookHow rad am I at algebra?

Since I was 10-ish, they have added computers to the classrooms, they let kids keep water bottles at their desks, and math (algebra!!) has gotten more intense. However, here are all the other ways nothing has really changed (for me) since fifth grade.

Nerves: Just like every Back to School Eve of my youth, I couldn't sleep the night before heading back to fifth grade. Apparently, the affliction of first-day jitters never goes away.

Friends: Would I make friends in class? Would they accept me for the 40-something gal I am who ridiculously tries to drop Justin Bieber trivia whenever there's a kid nearby? Would it be weird if I hid the whole recess in a tiny girl's bathroom stall or simply chatted up the teacher like a complete dork? Thankfully, fifth graders still kind of like adults, so I made a few friends and they showed me around. Big sigh of relief ... (P.S. Fifth graders are NOT impressed by Justin Bieber trivia.)

Life Lessons: To make my fifth grade experience more realistic, I denied myself coffee. God, why would I do this to myself? This is the kind of "attention to detail" that no one appreciates and only leads to my own suffering. Back in the real fifth grade, my teacher didn't even appreciate that I ripped open one of my mom's cigarettes for my report on Cuba and got totally busted in order to provide a representative sample of their tobacco exports. Just the same, no one in today's fifth grade appreciated my sleepy, decaffeinated presence either.

Pledge of Allegiance: This one was easy. The Pledge is still the same and still fills my heart with pride to say it aloud, and hey, I still know every word!

silly bandz hair girl
There was simply no competing with this little fashionista!

Clothes & Style: I had no idea what to wear for my first day of school. I didn't want to stand out (or show my age hahaha), nor did I want to seem uncool (hahaha). I went with a plain, simple dress. Cute but not too old lady-ish. Of course, I got it all wrong. Turns out, it's all about totally casual-cute jeans and Ts in fifth grade (now I remember). Oh, and feather hair extensions and ecclectic Silly Bandz accessorizing. Crap.

Chronic Yawns: I still can't stop endlessly yawning when I'm a little bored. I'm sure everyone in class noticed.

Insecurity: Apparently, I still need help when it comes to asking for help. When my pen ran out during math time, my deskmate raised her hand to tell the teacher for me because she could tell I was too embarrassed to interrupt her instruction. Yes, I swear I am an adult, but apparently I'll let any nice fifth grader do my dirty work.

Lunch Money: Same as always, I totally forgot my lunch money. Really, Sheri? Really? God! (so hungry ...)

Potato Wedges: They still try to call French Fries by the name Potato Wedges in the school cafeteria. Who do they think they're fooling?

Swirlies: The day I was on campus, two kids got sent to the Principal's Office for giving a third kid a Swirly in the boys' bathroom. To this day, my heart palpitates in fear when I think about my head being shoved down in a dirty elementary school toilet bowl mid-flush. God, and to think I went and put myself that close to the danger again. Scary!

Pencil Sharpeners: Classroom pencil sharpeners still work like crap. You still go in with a fully leaded stick and come out with a three-inch nubbin by the time it's sharp. They can't fix that???

Heads Up 7 Up: This poor-weather classroom game is still alive and well in the fifth grade, and everyone still cheats by peeking at the shoes of the person who tagged them.

I have to say I was shocked to realize that in the nearly three decades since I was in elementary school, my experience of fifth grade was very much the same. All the same things made it all worthwhile: making friends, learning from a good teacher, feeling like you belong, experiencing that instant when a lesson finally clicks, and taking in that moment when you feel you are finally being seen. All this was confirmed for me on my day back in elementary school.

However, I did learn something that I'd have never guessed. That way back around 10 years old, we are already the people we are going to become. The core of who we are is set and done. The deal is sealed. And I guess that's the most scary and comforting thing of all, isn't it?

What do you remember most about fifth grade? Do you have a fifth grader now?


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