My First Act of Resistance

Chronologically, my experiences in kindergarten precede those in first grade, but in terms of my larger narrative about valuing troublemaking, this account of “my first act of resistance,” was uncovered and crafted after my account about first grade. So I’ve decided to place it in second in my intellectual history.

While cleaning up a closet, I unearthed my report card (or, Progress Report, as they called it in North Carolina in 1979) from kindergarten. I was pretty excited; I thought the only report card that I still had was my one from first grade.


kindergarten report card, front/back

I love it! My favorite line has to be in the teacher comments for the first quarter: “Sara is a sweet child but needs to work on self-control.”

Ha! That sounds very similar to my first grade progress report. It’s interesting to read through Mrs. Von Dohlen’s comments; they’re surprisingly nice (kind? civil?).

According to my mom, Mrs. Von Dohlen, on at least one occasion, put me in a box for bad behavior. What was my “bad behavior”? I vaguely recall responding to some other kid’s question with, “none of your beeswax!”

But, did I get put in a box? And, if so, what kind of box? Perhaps even more than me, my mom was an unreliable narrator. Her narrations were heavily shaped by her feelings about the characters and events she was describing in her stories. Because Mrs. Von Dohlen’s husband was a faculty member at the college where my dad was dean of faculty and because my dad and Mr. Von Dohlen had had some conflicts (as is always the case with administration and faculty), my mom didn’t like Mrs. Von Dohlen. I imagine that her bad feelings influenced how she told me the box story. But even if Mrs. Von Dohlen didn’t put me in a box, I do remember that she didn’t like me and that she was pretty forceful in her efforts to get me to be controlled and disciplined.

Another thing to note about this report card are my very low marks for “practices self discipline.” I started with L (low), the lowest grade possible, and only improved one level to S (satisfactory). Here’s the inside of my progress report:

It might be hard to read in the scan, but in the language and spelling sections, Mrs. Von Dohlen has written: “Needs to continue to work on holding pencil correctly.”


That might be one of my most vivid memories from kindgergarten. One of my older sisters, AMP, had taught me to read and write when I was 4 and I liked how I learned to hold my pencil. Throughout that kindergarten year, I adamantly refused to hold it the “correct way.” What did it matter, I always thought (but probably didn’t actually say to my teacher). This small act of resistance was one of my first memories of troubling my education. To this day, I still don’t hold my pencil correctly and I still think that regulating students in this way is bullshit.

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