Weird Design Elementary

The Expansions... or lack thereof

Expansions? There were expansions?

I really do have to wonder what on earth the city planners and contractors were thinking when they were drawing up the tract housing lots AND designing West Heritage. They didn’t exactly give themselves much room to work with– much of the western tracts were already blocked in when West Heritage opened, so they were stuck with this circular blob of land to make do with.

Let’s ignore for a moment that the above is a Google map from 10 minutes ago. For one thing, when West Heritage opened, it had those seven concrete buildings (the bigger ones not highlighted with a color boundary, pay no mind to the outlier in the basketball courts because it didn’t show up until loooong after I left. The school was painted this creepy shade of pink and had blue metal roof effects. Let’s call this section the “Original Construct.” Continue reading

Posted in History | Tagged | Leave a comment

Holey Cards? More like Fail Cards

FAIL CARDS

"Fast Facts" my foot.

Ah, Holey Cards, the biggest pile of rubbish in math class as far as I was concerned. Used as busywork at best, or punishment at worst (the latter by short-tempered substitutes that should know better), they eventually settled into their place on Fridays in the afternoons before the loathsome “Student of the Week” event (or, gag me, the monthly assembly).

Unfortunately, as I have long learned, the fail that was the Holey Card was not unique to West Heritage. For the uninitiated, Holey Cards were meant to teach you how to add/subtract/multiply/divide 100 numbers per computation type… in under two minutes.

BULL. PUCKY.

Their use as stated lasted… as long as the first successful completion. Because the cards themselves were not randomized, they were useless¬† after the first completion.¬† After you cleared them for the first time it was merely a method of memorizing a huge string of numbers. Eventually the actual problem prompts themselves became irrelevant, it became a rat race as to who could write down those number strings, without error, the fastest. Some of us even came up with a number song to aid in memorizing these number strings.

And West Heritage, bless its inclination towards the weird, actually had an achievement for getting 100% on all 4 of these. What? WHAT?! Why on earth was there an award for that? I know we kids were lazy and had to be lured along by a carrot, but… that’s just absurd! (I will, however, give them credit for not going along with the official “terrificates” that the site now distributes. West Heritage instead opted to print their own achievements, which were only slightly less cheesy.)

Thankfully, I believe they’ve fallen out of favor among many elementary school teachers, who no doubt recall these horrible cards from their own childhoods and knew better than to even think about using them.

Posted in School Culture | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Shouty McShouterPants

One thing my school (and I’m sure many others) had a huge hangup on was talking. Teachers at West Heritage were OBSESSED with getting us all to, for lack of a better term, STFU. This remains, of course, the eternal losing battle– you weren’t going to get a room of kids to be quiet for very long. Hell, even Craig Ferguson has issues getting his audience to quiet down after the intro to his show, what makes you think an elementary school teacher would fare much better?

This wasn’t so much an issue in Kindergarten, where it was a given that a bunch of little kids were going to chatter nonstop. Yet in first grade, I learned that teachers had this extremely hostile reaction to us kids saying words… at all. If there was one word that was guaranteed to never, EVER appear on any spelling or vocab list, it was “quiet.” (Now that I think about it, the only synonym for quiet/silence I ever saw on such a list was “reticent,” and that probably wasn’t even until, what, seventh grade?)

Obviously the reasoning behind this fixation of NO TALKING, EVER was “classroom management” (teacher code for: sit down, shut up and listen while I say words that are supposed to float into your brainholes) but wow, some of the teachers here were really, really shouty and whiny about it. My own first grade teacher, Mrs. White, came off as a very scary sort at first– who WOULDN’T be intimidated by some loud old lady who yelled all the time? (That’s the hilarity– in getting us all to be quiet, these teachers ended up being louder than us!). There was also one of the third grade teachers, Mrs. Reinheimer, who was also quite shouty. (She was also super-tall and wore sunglasses even indoors… I think, in hindsight, she might have suffered from migraines, which would probably make her much more sensitive to light and loud noises.) Finally, among the fifth grade teachers, there was Mrs. Kerr– another tall woman and, now that I think about it, looked quite a bit like Final Fantasy XIII‘s Fang, except with darker hair. (Fancy that.)

Let’s go back to my first grade teacher here. Mrs. White was the very vision of the crazy-loud old lady. You wouldn’t have known such during the pre-launch meet-and greet; she seemed like a very friendly, grandmotherly character… but all bets were off on the first day of school. The first few months were nothing but constant demands for silence, usually directed at specific students. I think, at this time, her yelling all the time might have permanently influenced me into being a not-chatty person, which already put me at odds with some of the chattier classmates I was seated next to. Eventually, though, there was a point where Mrs. White came around and realized that yelling at everyone to be quiet all the time wasn’t getting us anywhere, and we were finally able to meet the “badass grandma” that we originally encountered in August. She would probably have been an excellent roleplayer, now that I think about it, as she could easily get into character without much preparation time. In particular, there was one instance in which she was demonstrating a door-to-door salesman scenario for an upcoming fundraiser, and she played a housewife as an example of a person we were expected to make our sales pitches to. Something about watching her perform had entranced my 6 year old mind… she was no longer the scary old lady who wanted everyone to shut the hell up.

As for those other shouty teachers? They more or less stayed that way. I recall passing by their open classroom doors when I was dispatched to deliver messages to other teachers. This was the early 90’s, remember, so any correspondence between teachers had to be run by hand, usually by sending a trusted student. As an introvert-in-the-brewing, I welcomed these few minutes of escape from a noisy classroom, but at the same time I feared being sent to hand off a message to one of those loud teachers because I thought they would turn their anger on me. Ah, I think they also influenced me into being a quiet person, too…

Take it to heart, those of you who might take the path of teaching small children. Be careful if you opt for “silence by intimidation” as a tactic of classroom management, as you just might push some of your more introverted charges a little bit beyond that point of being too afraid to speak up in public space.

Character Connection: I promise not to make a habit of this, but there are some unavoidable instances in which I have to identify a teacher or some other person of authority as having influenced the creation/development of one of my characters in Across Universe. In this case, Mrs. White would later be spiritually transplanted to the “old lady pattern” of Katherine Nazou. Just so you know.

Posted in School Culture | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Little School That Could

The Village of Heritage, today

The Google map

In 1988, a little section of Fontana, California, was being shaped and molded from the earth into a unique section of tract housing. This section of tract housing was dubbed “Village of Heritage” and was reminiscent of gated communities… except, without the actual gates. It was strictly a residential area– no commercial constructs of any kind penetrated the concrete walls, though they would pop up just outside.

There was, of course, one little problem… With all these new houses being built, and all these families expected to occupy them, there was the question of where the little ones would go to school. At the time, the de facto campus was Summit Elementary (which would transform into Summit Intermediate), and it was already being strained by current population growths. When my family moved here in early 1988, my brother was assimilated into Summit’s 1st grade class. And later in the year, the solution to Summit’s growing pains had a name and location:

West Heritage Elementary School.

West Heritage Elementary

The front gate and the parking "loop"

Of course, such a school would need teachers and staff to populate it. As is standard practice for new schools, West Heritage took a nibble out of Summit’s faculty complement (including my brother’s 1st grade teacher, who would be respecced into an AM Kindergarten teacher) and presumably either chewed on other faculties or hired fresh. And in September of 1988, West Heritage opened its doors to a smattering of newbies, myself among them in its first-ever kindergarten class (the “Original Eagles” as we would be called in 1994).

This blog is dedicated to my bizarre career as a former student of West Heritage Elementary, which for some reason Google and many in my Facebook network have forgotten exists (and likely for the better). I am regrettably cursed with a photographic memory– try as I may to forget that I went to such a school that dared to implement ridiculous things as Silent Lunch, was so shameless with Sibling Recursion, or hall moderators (or “proctors,” a term I never liked as it was easily mixed up with “proctologist”) who had legally-unwarranted authority to search and publicly name-and-shame kids with taboo food items in their lunches… well, you just don’t forget these things.

Some parameters and warnings: Yes, I promise this school really did (and continues to) exist. No, it’s pretty much impossible to locate any of my teachers to corroborate/refute any of my claims. Which leads me to my next warning: yes, I do name names, but I’m not out to torpedo anyone’s career because it seems many of these teachers had EXTREMELY common surnames, and on the whole the teachers were otherwise decent folk with some pretty eccentric practices. The most I was able to gather from Google was that two of my teachers wandered over to other elementary schools, and one of the third grade teachers (one of the only two men at the time) got promoted to principal and later, superintendent. If there is anyone deserving of a bit of hand-slapping, it would be the hall moderators with an overbearing sense of authority. You know who they are. The ones who shouted us down and tried to impose Silent Lunch, unaware that it is in a child’s nature to be loud at lunch, and that whoever did the school floorplans is a dumbface because you do NOT have cafeteria doors open outwards in the direct line of sight of classroom doors and expect there to not be a cacophony coming out of said cafeteria during lunch.

…ahem…

I invite my fellow alumnae of Weird Heritage (especially those of Class of ’02 and our most-likely siblings in the wingspan years of ’00 and 04) to share your memories and experiences, no matter how mundane or out-there they may be. Believe me, anything will likely help to corroborate the weird tales you’ll find in this-here blog. EXTREME bonus points if you can scan in yearbooks or upload videos from school plays, field trips or even everyday classroom activity. We all intersect at some point, don’t we?

And finally, to those who look fondly upon their days at this school and have come here to have your happy memories stomped upon by this person’s ramblings, I apologize. Though, if you came here, you surely must have been curious about the how-and-why of something nagging in your memories…?

Posted in History | Tagged | Leave a comment