Discipline was a whole different matter as well. I'm not sure how teachers punish students now or if the word "punish" is even used these days. But I'm pretty sure they don't swat kids with rulers like my third-grade teacher did or practice Extreme Shaming like my fifth-grade teacher did.
Seriously, my fifth-grade teacher was a master in the art of Extreme Shaming. He'd wash your mouth out with soap, put chewing gum on your nose and wind it around your ears, and smack your little behind with a frat boy paddleboard if you got out of line, which, apparently, I did a lot, because I was often on the receiving end of all those punishments.
Finally, in a fit of pique, my fifth-grade teacher told me that I had to spend the rest of the week down in the kindergarten room and do everything the kindergarteners did because OBVIOUSLY I was not mature enough to be a fifth-grader. So I packed up my pencil box and joined the little kids down the hall.
It's true that I felt foolish at first, especially since the kindergarten teacher kept giving me the Stink Eye. It was clear she wasn't going to treat me like I was Laura Ingalls Wilder and tell me to help the young'uns do their math sums. Nope. As far as she was concerned, I was one of the young'uns. A young'un that needed to be learned a lesson!
So that's why I ate graham crackers and milk and took a tiny nap on a tiny rug and colored pictures with big fat Crayola crayons and went out to baby recess with all my kindergartener classmates.
But here's the deal. It was kind of fun. A lot more fun than fifth-grade story problems, for example, that asked stuff like "how many 2-foot, 4-inch steps will a man take when walking 21.4 miles?" to which I would answer, "why doesn't he just take his car instead?"
And then on Friday came the best activity of all. The show-and-tell.
I saw all kinds of great stuff, but the best thing of all was this pet rabbit that one of the boys brought to school. I'm not kidding when I say this rabbit was as big as a pit bull. A pure white pit bull. With red eyeballs and big old pit bull muscles that rippled every time it twitched its nose. Clearly this rabbit was into some kind of illegal rabbit blood-doping regimen because everything about it was too much, too much, including the fact that it only had one ear.
It's true. This rabbit only had one ear growing straight out of the top of its head, not unlike a Kansas cornstalk in September.
My fellow kindergarten classmates and I were thunderstruck. Who even knew there were rabbits like this in the world?
Well, we did. The kindergarteners. And I counted myself lucky to be among their select number. I've never forgotten that day.
And here's something else I've never forgotten either that punishments, even if they match the crime, do not always have the desired effect.