We were in the Greater Plains sixthgrade
wing after school, and my 5-year-old
daughter, Allie, was begging for a glimpse
of her older sister’s classroom.
“Please, can I see it?” she asked, tugging
on my hand. “I just want to see the
We peeked in to see the medieval transformation the sixth-graders had created, with coats of arms, tapestries and paper “stones” lining the walls, and a cardboard dungeon, church and watchtower big enough for kids to climb inside.
It was magical even to me; I couldn’t imagine how it would look to a little kid stealing a glimpse of the glamorous big-kid world.
With a kindergartner and a sixth-grader, I see both ends, every day. This year has been the only time my two girls will ever be in the same school, and the brief convergence is extraspecial because Greater Plains was my elementary school, too.
There is a unique relationship between the little kids and the big kids. At playtime, the kindergartners re-enact the recent sixth-grade play, reciting the oneliners they remember; singing snippets of the songs. In the hallways and after school, the sixth-graders give hugs and high-fives to the kindergartners they know.
Their worlds are so different, yet they are united by the shared experience of hearing the same morning announcements on the PA, smelling the same chicken nuggets at lunchtime, meeting the same visitors at school assemblies.
Abby and Allie ride the bus together, pass each other in the hall and see each other at major school events, such as last week’s Field Day on the playground. When Allie bumped her teeth in gym class and was rushed, crying and bleeding, to the nurse’s office, word quickly got back to Abby from a classmate who happened to be passing by.
I will never forget the image of the two of them after school, walking out the front door with packs on their backs, holding hands.
On a much larger scale, everyone in the large and loyal Greater Plains family is connected on some level through shared experience. I’ve run into many other parent- alumni, some of whom specifically bought houses in the West End so their kids could attend the same school they did. We also have four teachers who are GPS grads. Vicki Lyall, who joined the Greater Plains faculty as a first-grade teacher last fall, said she is thrilled to be back at her old school.
“On occasion, I walk down the halls of Greater Plains and flashback to one of the many happy experiences I had as a child growing up in the 1970s. These include art classes with Mrs. Morris, stories read by Mrs. Rees in the library and intramural sports with my third-grade teacher, Mr. Byrnes. I can still hear Miss Fraats, my second-grade teacher, read, `Some pig!’ from `Charlotte’s Web.’ And who can forget Mrs. Minette? She was that perfect teacher who made learning fun and engaging. … I wanted to be just like her!
“While much has changed since those days of overhead projectors and filmstrips, some things remain the same. “The playground may have new play structures, but the spaciousness of the grounds is what I like most about it,” Lyall said. “I particularly loved the big, old oak tree. I can recall spotting an indigo bunting there on my way to the nature trail.”
Though none of the teachers I remember is still at Greater Plains, some remain involved with the school.
One greets families at kindergarten registration; another accompanies the choir on the piano during concerts. During a recent experience as a parent volunteer, I worked side-by-side with my former librarian.
In a few days, Abby will graduate from sixth grade. I know that the closing of this window is the first step in a larger distance that will come between my girls, at least for a while, as Abby enters a new phase of life, in a new school building, leaving her sister behind.
I take consolation in the knowledge that, even though they’ll no longer be together, they will still share experiences. Abby will relate to Allie’s Greater Plains milestones, remembering what it was like to camp out in the gym during the Read & Sleep, write a fifth-grade state report and serve on the safety patrol.
Hopefully, the things they have shared and the memories they have made will continue to connect them, just as they have connected so many other members of the Greater Plains extended family over the years.
Lisa Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Oneonta. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.