Daily Archives: October 23, 2011

All My Schools

Since I’ve spent my adult life in New York City people assume I grew up here. Not so.  Very much not so. I’m a faculty brat (my dad was an academic) and we moved often — my longest time in any one school was three years until college.

Just for fun, here’s what I know and can find about all my pre-college schools:

1. I was born in Greensboro, North Carolina and, after a few rough patches we moved to Montgomery, Alabama where I went to my first nursery school of which I only remember that it was in a quonset hut.  (This was at the time of the bus boycott in which my parents played small roles which he wrote about here.)

2. After that we moved to Palo Alto for a year while my father was at the Hoover Institute and I went to the  progressive Peninsula School.

3 and 4. From there we went to East Lansing, Michigan (where my father taught at Michigan State University).  I spent kindergarten and first grade at the Marble School and grades three, four, and five at the Red Cedar School.

5 and 6. Second grade was a bit more complicated as my father had a Fulbright and we spent it in Germany where I went to two very different schools. (Just a reminder that I’m first generation American, German on both sides.) The first was the Anna-Schmidt Schule, a school with a progressive tradition.  It was a sink or swim situation regarding German and I evidently went from knowing nothing (I remember my teacher telling me to go to the window and going to the door) to being pretty fluent.  We wrote on slates and then there was a big deal when we were ready for fountain pens.  I still have my copybooks, some tearstained, from my efforts to do work perfectly.  I also have my reading books and it is interesting to see how much was expected of second graders then.  Half way through the year we moved to the country where I went to a little village school — my main memories of it are learning to knit which was quite fun!  Also, due to my parents picking up some My Naughty Little Sister and The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse when we were in London, I became an avid reader.

7. Then my father ended up at Washington University in St. Louis and I spent sixth grade at the Flynn Park School in University City.

8. Found myself back in Germany again for seventh grade.  Having only been in St. Louis a year, terrified of the junior high I’d be returning to, and remembering how challenging it had been returning to the U. S. the previous time I begged my parents to send me to an American school and they did, the incredibly mediocre American School on the Rhine which no longer exists and so no link. (It was a Defense Department School and tried to more American than anyone in American would be. Since we had nothing to do with the Embassy it was rough for my sister and me. We lived in a German neighborhood and spent our time with Germans whereas the kids at the school had nothing to do with Germans.  My one friend’s parents were so horrified by the school that they took her out a few months in and put her in a much better international school and then I was alone for the rest of the year.  We did stuff like PE at the American Club with a teacher who taught us the hulu. Kids were incredibly mean to the German teacher and, all and all, it was a horrible year. I always thanked my parents for understanding why I wanted to go there while being sorry that I did.  If I’d been in an international school that year instead, I’d be completely bilingual, instead of just fluent.)

9. Eight and ninth grade were at Hanley Junior High in University City.

10. My dad then was invited to Columbia University so we moved once again and I spent the final three years of high school at Dobbs Ferry High School in the New York suburbs.

11.  While not for a school year, I spent the summer of 10th grade at a Swiss boarding school (something I’d long wanted to do due to my adoration of Madeleine L’Engle’s And Both Were Young).  Would have happily stayed there although my sister, two years younger, detested it.

So there you are. I can say I’m a New Yorker now, but I definitely did not have a New York childhood.


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