Writing Memoir

The art of note passing

Where I spent most of my elementary school years…

I remember being yelled at by Mrs. E on my horrible penmanship. I was in the 6th grade and she was my English teacher. She called me up to her desk located at the front of the class and proceeded to tell me how illegible my handwriting was.

She started off calmly, probably trying to reason with me, and then her voice got louder until she was screaming at me to look at my work. I started crying. Sobbing really – I was a complete mess standing in front of my peers. I was embarrassed and ashamed.

I went back to my desk with the offending paperwork. I couldn’t see what Mrs. E saw. I could read my handwriting. I didn’t think it was that bad, so I’m sure this showed on my face. Looking back I probably stood up there looking confused and indifferent, and that’s why Mrs. E started getting so angry at me.

My best friend Janet was in the same class and we started to write notes to one another in order to stave off complete and utter boredom. We thought it was fun to be rebellious. I’m not sure if we did this before or after Mrs. E’s scream-fest but I remember thinking once I sat down, I hate Mrs. E and this is the beginning of I DON’T CARE.

Janet and I were in a writing contest with one another on who could include more cuss words per sentence. It had to make sense though. It couldn’t be just swear words. I suppose this was the beginning of my creative writing career. And as you might imagine we started writing about Mrs. E in a vivid way.

Fucking bitch. I’d scribble on the end of my notebook.

Fucking bitch whore pussy sucking dick. Janet would write back.

I was aghast but in that laughing shocked kind of way. Back and forth we went.

It was pretty bad. Sorry Mrs. E.

***

The art of note passing is an underestimated skill. I think I’ve had only a note or two intercepted by clever teachers in my time, so I feel strongly about having an overall good track record.

When you are feeling bold it is perfectly acceptable to launch the note (after you have, of course, folded it origami style) across to your receiver when the teacher has her back turned. Most of the time, a classmate will not intercept your note. Although immature boys will sometimes take a playful swipe, they rarely if ever rat-tat-tat on you. At least this has been my experience.

Actually I’ve had classmates pick up a note that didn’t have the momentum to make it, reach down and pass it for you. Teamwork!

The cupping of the folded note in hand from one to another is the more traditional style of passing that takes on various forms depending on where your receiver is located. Standing in line comes to mind.

The stretch and drop method to pass a note behind you has truly been one of my all time favorites because it’s so daring.

It’s also fun to watch your peers pass a note.

I think in order to appreciate note passing though, one has to have been a teacher. Teachers have an amazingly good perspective on their students. I can’t believe how much I can see when I stand in front of class. When I taught first and second grade, it made me happy when I could see what the children were doing or attempting to hide from me. I was almost giddy when I caught them playing with a toy they bought from home or snacking during a lesson. Then the students would look at me like I was a god, “How did she know?” Well, that was the boys’ reaction. The girls were more despondent. But I won. Yes. I lord of the classroom could see all.

But my favorite method of note passing is not really note passing at all. It developed out of the form of just simply writing down what you wanted to say, “bored,” “boring,” “yawn,” and sliding your notebook for your desk partner to see. This is what Janet and I did. This was the college route too, when silent communication had to develop into a more mature art form.

It should be pointed out however that notes can take a rather sour turn. For instance, whenever someone wrote negatively about me.

We had moved from Hawaii to California at the end of my 6th grade year, and I distinctly recalled all the girls in my new class did not like me. They giggled and wrote things about me. They wouldn’t play with me unless the teacher, god forbid, told them to. They even attempted to bate me into writing down that I had a crush on a boy named William. Then I realized they or someone in the group was not pleased with the fact that William showed me how to use a baseball bat. I am left handed and I had never held a baseball bat before.

But one day, out on the field, William put his arms loosely around me as he explained the fundamentals of holding a bat, right handed. I wasn’t expecting him to do that but rather demonstrate how he did it, you know and then watch me do it. I didn’t read much into this until the girls were sniggering behind my back.

I wonder how William and Janet turned out.

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2 thoughts on “The art of note passing

  1. I was pretty good at passing notes too, although the contents of mine were totally PG compared to yours. Poor Mrs. E … but poor you too for having to endure her wrath. Actually, poor William. Seems like you kinda blew him off.

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    1. It’s funny what we remember. But in thinking about school this is a clear exclamation point.

      And I was too traumatized by being a minority at my new school to appreciate William’s attention!

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