Once upon a sixth grade dreary

I meant to post this yesterday, which was the anniversary of Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday. Ah, well, better late than never.

My sixth grade teacher for English and reading was Mr. Koliha. One of the year-long projects he had for us was the memorization of poetry. We started with at least five lines (a lot of limericks that first week), and each succeeding week the minimum number of lines grew by one. Of course, being an obnoxious little show-off at the time, I rarely did the minimum.

There was a boy in class who gave me a run for my money, though. One week, I decided to show just how good I was, and I set out to memorize “The Raven.” Sadly, I only got about 3/4 of it down pat. Mr. Koliha gave me credit for that because it was so much longer than necessary. The boy, the week following (or had it been the week preceding? Memory goes vague on the details.) recited “The Bells,” grinning mischievously the whole time.

I still don’t know “The Raven” by heart. (Perhaps I’ll work on that again this year.) Why does that one poem — or parts of it, and my work on it — still stick in my brain decades later, when I can’t recall anything else I did? Maybe because I picked the furthest, most difficult target I could and worked toward it, and discovered that there was some success even though I didn’t reach my goal. Maybe because it was one of my first tastes of not always being the best. Maybe because Poe has always been an inspiration to me.

Life has gone on, and many things have changed, but those core truths have not. I still enjoy Poe. I’m not always the best. And I always reach for outrageous goals.

What about you? Do you have any lessons from your schooling and early years that have stuck with you through time? Share them in the comments!

As always, thanks for reading.