#28 All the things you learned in third grade

What do you do?

Me, I work in an office but if I try telling people more than that their eyes gloss over. “You lost me at spreadsheets,” my friends say, while yawning and giving the waiter a head nod and ghost pour for another beer.

But I get that — jobs are complicated and it’s hard to understand what anybody does anymore.

When I was a kid I had a big hardcover book showing me all the things I could be when I grew up. “One day,” it said, “you can be a teacher, factory worker, or astronaut! You can be a fireman, doctor, or traffic cop!” The narrator didn’t say anything about strategy consultants, event planning coordinators, or business analysts working on special projects.

Yes, we all started down the same school path but along the way our lives took different turns. Wide roads twisted into off-ramps, off-ramps broke into sidestreets, and sidestreets split into dirty little paths every which way until we all ended up where we are today.

Life gets tricky and sometimes our day jobs feel so far away from everything we learned when we were young. But there’s something so sweet about the things we learned in third grade – about how they shaped our world and got us started on the same page. We started rolling down long lives of learning … but it all started when we all knew the same things:

1. Types of rocks. Wasn’t it mind-blowing to finally learn what we’d been crawling and standing on our whole life? Also, igneous, sedmientary, and metamorphic were fun words to say over and over again. Speaking of fun words, you remember what igneous was made of, right? Magma.

2. How to Brush Your Teeth* (*and other hygiene basics). I miss the days when nurses would come to school and teach everyone how to clean themselves. Anyway, back in third grade my friend Natalie and I were making construction paper crowns in the hallway when a nurse came to visit our class. We completely missed the oversized toothbrush scraping that big set of plastic teeth (obviously stolen from Giant World in Mario 3.) Most kids picked up the basics that day. Me, all I got was gingivitis.

3. Cities and Countries and Planets, Oh My. Did you memorize all the states or provinces? Draw a map of your home country in pencil-crayon? Did you slop papier-mache on a balloon and paint a little globe on it? Or draw a big chart of the planets? These early experiences gave us all a sense of place in the world. Everything was smaller before then.

4. Dinosaurs. No offense to Marco Polo or The Boer War but learning about dinosaurs was the greatest history lesson of all time. “Listen up kids,” your teacher would say with eyes popping wide, sitting cross-legged on the carpet. “Before you got here giant lizards the size of houses stomped around eating things right where we’re sitting today. They all died when a huge meteor crashed into Earth so heads up.” Talk about a bombshell.

5.  Puberty. When it was time for The Talk they shipped in a guest speaker at our school. She put big pink drawings of a boy and a girl on the chalkboard and we had to go sick little brown hair clouds made of construction paper on them. “Here you go Neil,” she said. “Put this hair on any part of the body where you think hair will grow.” There was no Internet so everybody sat quiet the entire time. People took notes.

6. Adding and subtracting. Newsflash: Nobody uses algebra, calculus, and geometry. It was all a ruse! “Hey Hank, can you trigonometry the wall to figure out where the studs are?” Yes, I’m saying getting through life is basic math – adding up tabs at the bar, figuring out if you’ve got enough on your credit card for Christmas, and splitting cable bills with your roomies. We learned it back then and it still comes in handy.

7. Storytelling. When Mrs. Dorsman grabbed her glasses and headed for the rocking chair we scrambled for a good spot on the carpet to hear her spin a tale. We got suspense, funny voices, and cliffhangers. From those early days stories become how we communicate, remember, and share everything.

Yes, the world sure was simpler back in third grade. We started learning hard facts and clear rules that gave our lives hard edges and then colored them in. Names of planets, types of triangles, and the boiling point of water all added certainty in a fuzzy world.

Of course, fuzziness comes back later on, when our baby brains find hidden worlds of complexity and nuance… when we realize we don’t know what’s farther than far, why things are this way, or where we really are. That’s because when the world straightens itself out … it all gets crooked again. When our minds seem settled and still … that’s when the drink swishes and spins. So that’s why it’s nice looking back and feeling all those lessons from yesterday — when everything to know and learn was right inside third grade.


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78 thoughts on “#28 All the things you learned in third grade

    1. Oh! Oh! And Healthy Harold! It was always so exciting to get into his van and learn about our bodies. :)

      …And, looking back on that sentence, it probably sounds very seedy to the people who have never heard of Healthy Harold. Hmm.

      1. Oh Yes! DEAR! – we did this in year four not three, but was still awesome :)

        & Yes Healthy Harold was so awesome! – I remember in kindy, yr one and two, we went to this place where healthy harold was – and then every year after that he came to us!

        When we used to go to the place he was at I remember this one room where all the lights got turned off & there were little holes in the celiing & they made it look like stars!
        that was my favourite part for sure :)

        1. Yes, it was so exciting to walk from the sunshine into this dark, mysterious space. I did love the “star” ceiling. It was also great in the Year 6 visit, where they reveal the horrifying truth — Harold isn’t real! *le gasp!*

    2. Schools desperately need more DEAR time!! There is so much pressure on teachers and students that there’s barely a spare minute in the day to do anything besides the core curriculum … but they are missing out on that precious time to just enjoy a book for the sake of enjoying it. I loved DEAR, too!

      1. I feel like I’m really missing out now. I never had that. We didn’t gather on carpets to listen to the teacher read. The only reading times I remember is when we read as a class… you know.. one person reads a paragraph or a page and then the next kid goes. We also had reading buddies. I guess during the time all your teachers were reading to you we had to read to ourselves.

        1. Oh that makes me sad for you! :(

          Reading aloud to my class is probably my favorite part of the day. Sometimes we read picture books (third graders still LOVE those!), sometimes I read chapter books. My faves to read (and theirs to hear) are the Fudge books by Judy Blume and Sideways Stories from Wayside School. They also love these books by National Geographic called “Weird But True”. Weird, fun, gross facts … gets ’em every time. :) Hopefully your daughter (and son, when the time comes!) will be in classes whose teachers read aloud!

          1. Oh, my daughter has reading time at school and she loves it. They’ve read most of the Junie B. books and are working on something called Mystery Treehouse or something along those lines. She really does enjoy it. I even have circle time at home. I’ll sit on bed and read to my kids. The baby will be in big sis’s lap and they’ll sit there and listen. And we switch it up sometimes. My daughter will read to us.

  1. Ahhh, good old Harold.
    Luckily for me I am a primary teacher and still get to do and learn about and share all that sort of stuff!!
    I adore this website!

      1. Hey, you do realize then, that you may be someone else’s wonderful memory someday? It’s just occurring to me that I may have had a student over the years who may now remember me as their favorite! Wow, now how awesome would that be!

        1. I have thought that before, mostly due to the Mrs. Dorsman post — hoping that I had a positive impact on one of my students! I think back to the things I remember from school and the teachers I loved/didn’t love … and I hope that I’m only a good memory in students’ minds.

  2. Third grade brought me roman numerals, math drills, and a the starts of cursive. Seeing as I remember more of that than I remember things I’d learned in high school I’ll have to agree and say this is awesome!

  3. Haha, yes, I’ve never heard of Healthy Harold and it sounds like just about the sketchiest thing every. :) I remember having Read-a-thons, though–you got points for every book you read, and once you reached certain numbers you would get amazing prizes, like sparkly notebooks and bouncy balls and tacky hair accessories. Some days I really wish I could trade Kierkegaard and Napoleon and all of them for dinosaurs and triangles. :)

    1. “get in a van with a man and explore our bodies??” yeah, that’s pretty much the sketchiest thing ever. Who designs this curriculum? I’m seriously creeped out now.

        1. Tee Hee.. Kathy just took something that sounded dirty in a sketchy way, and made it sound dirty in a good way.. :)

  4. Number 7 is my favorite, my 4th grade teacher read novels to the class every afternoon for about 30 minutes. We got to lay on pillows and relax, she even told us it didn’t matter if we fell asleep, it was just supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable. I was always my favorite part of the day, she showed me that reading could be fun, ahh I miss those days!

  5. I did not like the kindergarten teacher b/c she did not like me b/c I could hardly speak. Then we were evacuated from the school. Me, in the arms of a fireman, due to an injury the night before. To this day I wonder how it is I never married a fireman! Sliding down poles, wearing big boots…hazy eyed…ok.ok. Grade one I told a kid to quit cheating off my quiz so I wouldn’t get a zero. I got the yard stick over my butt and a zero. Grade two, I received my first love note. My friend and I giggled. I was brought to the front of the class and beared great shame as well as the pointer stick across my butt from the preacher’s wife. She did not shake my faith but I nearly quit school. Then along came grade three, where I met Mrs. Cambell…best teacher…best year EVER! SHE made us all feel smarter FOR asking questions! SHE was so patient with reading, arithmetic and everything, I started to learn! I remember doing my first report, WITH A PARTNER, on working breed dogs. Learning about the earth was amazing! And maps!The very cool cursive! (thanks Casey:) Mrs.Campbell had us form a choir and we actually performed in malls and some fairly large theaters. That’s the triangle I recall- ting-ting! Her love for music, education and children definitely influenced my life positively. Sorry for the rambling on but Third grade, BEST EVER! Mrs. Campbell’s heart and smile…bless her soul. Bless your soul. Thank you for this awesome:)

    1. I played the triangle in third grade too! Our entire class got up on the stage that was in the lunch room and we performed “Working on the Railroad.” Every time we practiced, Imade sure I got the triangle even though it didn’t matter which instrument we grabbed. We had one triangle, maracas, some rythm sticks and a tamberine.

    2. *So that’s why it’s nice looking back and feeling all those lessons from yesterday- when everything to know and learn was right inside third grade.* “Off to School”, for “Fun with Dick and Jane” became where I WANTED to be, equal to the forest! Mrs.Campbell selected “my closest friend and I” to be her helpers for the year which meant sitting right next to her desk. We must have been kindred. She had to know we needed her and many responsilities she entrusted us!!:) She taught me how to research and write a good-fun-colourful report. She believed in me and launched me into the desire to learn! A fascinating frame of reference place, where “Raindrops keep falling on my head”, takes me away, to Mrs.Campbell’s deep diaphram, sweet voice and gentle ways, safe embrace, loving face and third grade…to my heart, soul and brain, for way back when, THE perfect place.
      And as for what I have done and do in the world today, so many things because Mrs.Campbell set the stage to say I could<3 xoz:)

  6. My third grade teacher was Mrs White. She was an american teacher with the thickest accent & she was awesome!
    she lived on an alpaca farm & I remember her bringing alpaca wool into class one day to show us how soft it was.
    She taught me my times tables & my division.
    She was always the kind sweet teacher and even remembered me when I went back to the school like 5 years after I left there for a school fete.
    Thank you Mrs White for being the amazing teacher you are!

  7. Grade 4 and Mr. Kindon. He was tough, but terrific! We had so many incredible experiences that year: churning ice cream, tasting goat’s milk from the goat he brought for a visit, having international meals to taste different foods, learning multiplication facts, listening as he read Dorothy in Oz, and practicing for our play. Great times with our farmer teacher!

    I’m loving the daily trips down memory lane of late! Thanks! Gosh, this can’t really be 28 already?! Just found out Friday I need surgery. I’m not looking forward to it, but it should drastically decrease pain and vastly improve my life. When the dr. told me, one of my first thoughts was, “Well, I can’t have it done ’til after #1 in Awesomeland ‘cuz I’m not missing out on that!” Mine personal #1: Hope, Gratitude, Love, and all of those wonderful intangibles!

    1. Good luck on the surgery. I’m sure everything will be fine. Planning it around #1 made me laugh.
      Hope, gratitude and love are truly the best things.

      1. Another thought I had was, “but I promised Bekah that choc cake for her bday!” But, the way things look, I should be up and around and baking by then! :)

    2. Oh no! Surgery! Hopefully it only brings good things.

      Thank goodness you had the foresight to consider the rest of the awesome things! We would be sitting around at number one, just waiting for the gang to virtually reunite, and we’d be Kathy-less … your pinkish square missing from the party. That would make the day even sadder than it already will be!

      1. Imagine the operating room light is a giant daisy, (you’ll see what I mean), and take yourself away to the fond memories you have written here-in, along with goats frolicking in flowery meadows to Pink Floyd music, (pink is a healing colour), and know that you, Kathy, are going to be A-Okay:)

      2. Hey, so, has it been declared a national…wait, no, an Internation Holiday yet?! No one can be expected to work that day after all! Too many party preparations to prepare and such. I think I’d like to do something nice for my family and friends in honor of the day! Hmmm….what to do, what to do.

    3. Yes – good luck, Kathy! Hope surgery goes well, and you are pain free and jumping around in no time!

      You drank goat’s milk DIRECTLY from a goat in 4th grade? That is a wild day in class! Hopefully in 5th grade they taught you guys about pasteurization? ;)

      btw: I like your ideas for #1.. curious to see what it’s going to be!

      1. Well, he didn’t exactly squirt it into our mouths (now that would have been the most fun ever!); but he did milk it and add chocolate to make chocolate goat’s milk! Pasteurization, though I’m sure interesting to those in the pocket-protector-and-slide-rule group, just isn’t as much fun as milking a goat and drinking it right off! All hail unsafe, reckless, germ-infested fun! We probably drank it right before going outside to play on all of the unsafe playground equipment anyway. :)

  8. Third grade…wow…. that was the year I lost my lisp. I went to speech therapy in 2nd grade to help with it, but I wouldn’t do it. They wanted me to say ‘sit’ with my teeth together and I was afraid they were trying to get me to say bad words, so I never went back. Third grade the counselor would come in with puppets and talk. I sat and watched her talk and talk. I taught myself how to talk right just by watching her talk.
    Third grade was also the first time I was ever teased. I don’t know how I did it, but one day I managed to go to school with my pants on backwards. It had an elastic band, no buttons or zippers, and there was a heart patch that was supposed to go on my right thigh…. a girl a year ahead of me saw what I did and made fun of me. I fixed it immediatly after that, but I didn’t like her years and years after that.
    I learned cursive handwriting in third grade, I went to 2 different schools in 3rd grade, I learned how to sign the alphabet, that Jose was pronounced Hosay…not the way it looks, I however did not learn anything about puberty until 5th grade. It was one of those things that nobody wanted to talk about.

    1. Wow … third grade sounds like it was rough for you! :(

      I wasn’t crazy about my third grade teacher … she ALWAYS sat me by the worst kid in class. I thought it was because she was punishing me, and it was the only time in school that I really ever remember complaining incessantly to my parents. It was also the only time my mom ever went to confront a teacher on my behalf (respectfully, of course … not like the slew of thankless, ignorant, insulting parents I see in and out of the school where I work now), and she told my mom it was because I was so well-behaved and quiet, she was hoping I’d rub off on that kid. I definitely keep that in mind as a teacher (as does my mom, also a teacher) when placing students in seats.

      I have tons of happy memories from third grade, though. :)

      ALSO, something that’s weird … the other third grade teacher from when I was a third grader (there were only two of each grade where I went) is still teaching third grade — it’s so fun/weird to work with her, now as a colleague!

      1. Bright and brilliant feat, Bekah!
        By the way, did you catch the reference, starting sentence #3? Add a bit of rythm, I see a special gift from the wizard of Awesome himself for you in there:)

      2. I bet that would be weird. When you first started working there did you call her Mrs (insert last name)? I still call ALL my teachers Mr or Mrs, I can’t call them by their first names even though some have insisted on it.

        1. YES! And actually, my old fourth grade teacher is also currently a third grade teacher in the district, so they both always tease me because I just CANNOT call them by their first names! It feels way too weird!

    2. I’m sorry to hear you had such a touch year at such a young age. You taught yourself? Way to go! You are amazing!

  9. I love it!

    I teach third grade, and I have to agree that it’s pretty great :)

    Thank God I don’t have to teach puberty. Hygiene, however, is a daily struggle with the kids in my class. A lot of them come from not the best home lives and hygiene just isn’t at the top of their lists of things to do. It makes for a pretty smelly classroom most days …

    When I was in school, I LOVED when the nurse would come in and check for head lice … free head massage!!

    1. LOL, Free head massage – I was always TERRIFIED that she would find something!

      Re: teaching puberty, the geekteen (now in Gr.8) assures me that the health unit untitled “growth and development” is, in reality, “all sex”. Yeah, you have to be pretty self-assured to talk to 13-year-olds about that most awkward of topics.

      1. I think your lice checks sounded like more fun than ours.. the nurses that would check our hair just had what looked like a really skinny pair of chopsticks. Lice is definitely a funny thing from when you’re a kid – why don’t we have people come to our offices now to do lice checks? That’d be pretty funny.

        As for smelly kids – I’m sure third grade is pretty bad, but I imagine somewhere aorund 6th or 7th grade is the worst.. kids going through puberty, but most of them still not learning about deoderant or daily showering. I always remember those being the “stinkiest” years.

        1. I also like the lice check, mostly because it got me out of class for a little bit. The nurse would come to our class and take a few of us at a time back to her office to check us. If we were clean, we got to walk back to class by ourselves. That was another cool thing to do back in elementary school.

          And I can only imagine the smelliness of the classroom. I can’t recall too much grossness while I myself was in class, but I’m sure kids don’t really worry about that kind of thing very much.

          1. We had no dirty harry, no nurses to prevent, look for or teach anything and the S word was not uttered anywhere but during truth or dare amongst the kids:) Left to our own; scarey stuff I’m NOT going to tell you!
            (My doctor did made house calls though, unless duty was beyond him) As for the fireman, in K there was a bomb threat at my school; police and dogs were busy, everyone was to flee and that fireman lifted me up like in Officer and a Gentleman, and he saved my life! If you’re listening, Thank you! And Bekah, Neil started the whole fireman thing with the memory post;) Also, knowing you are protected…that is Awesome!!!

            1. btw Laura, burn Satya Sai Baba Nag Champa Agarbatti insense. That’s what was handed down to me from generations; besides, somebody might ring the fire alarm…you know what I’m talking about;)

        2. Oh, agreed. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a middle school gym teacher! Holy smelly lockers.

          Kind of funny (but not really, I guess, considering the reason), this group of kids (there are three classes of third grade where I teach) as a whole has had a long-running reputation for being incredibly smelly/unhygienic. Special class teachers (you know: art, music, etc.), principals, and visitors to our rooms are kind of unofficial judges on who has the smelliest room, and it’s a neck-and-neck race between me and my friend Mandi. There are a select few culprits who just truly have horrible and neglectful home care. No clean clothes, possibly no running water at times, etc. They kind of have their own little stink cloud around them. It’s very sad. I can only imagine this group when THEY get to be middle schoolers … eek!

          1. There was a kid in my grade school who was really smelly. He wasn’t teased very much because he was the biggest kid in the class, but he didn’t have many friends, either. He ended up being pretty good at football, so he was much more popular in high school.

  10. This is so true about describing what you do everyday. I tell kids as often as I can the numerous things that they have the capability of doing, and compliment them on their skills so they can have someone to motivate them. My newest career push is: Deep Sea Diver: They make a lot!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. God cant forget those days man.
    I still remember when we were taught numbers from 1 to 100, whole class would daily compete that who is going to finish first..
    all such memories!!!
    Gr8 post guys… U have really scratched down each n every thing of 3rd grade teachings ;) :) :) :) :) <3 <3

  12. I liked everything about third grade except learning cursive. I stopped writing it as soon as teachers stopped requiring it.

  13. I really like this post – there was just all this information that you knew in 3rd grade that was ESSENTIAL at the time – but now I can’t remember for the life of me. Dinosaurs is a great example – when I was a kid, I had books and books on dinosaurs, and knew all of their different names and facts about their size.

    And somehow, decades later (and with plenty of years of school under my belt), I couldn’t tell you the name of a dinosaur that wasn’t prominently featured in Jurrasic Park… *sigh*.. Mental regression is the worst.

    1. Images of firemen sliding down poles, new boots, yoga, lumosity and “The Brain That Changes ITSELF”, book by Dr. Norman Doidge. A steady diet of kelp, quinoa and fish oils…topped with nutella I hear, is all you need to reopen those files and pathways in no time, Freddo…*trust me;)

      1. What is it with boys and dinosaurs?

        Wendy.. what is it with you and firemen?? lol.. hubby is one and his dad, his uncle, his cousin, his mom was one, his nephew is a junior fireman and I’m sure one day my son will join too.

        1. Hehehe… Wendy, I’ll need to follow your advice.. (though maybe not the bit about firemen.. :))

          Bekah – that’s super cool that you’re related to so many fire fighters! Please thank them all for all the good work they do to help keep us safe when we need them most!

    2. Freddo – Dinosaurs fit into that category of..”someday if/when I have kids”

      All your dino-knowledge will come back! You’ll be Dad – the guy who knows everything!!

  14. Neil, we awoke to another foot of snow- there are no pansies here, you know! Just as in grade three, I pleaded for detention… I ain’t too proud to beg you, for an extension. For my crown of passion and bad, BAD blues prevention…is there anybody out there feeling these emotions?

  15. Grade 3 was super, but I have to say, why did nobody think of life skills for the basic needs upon entering the real world. There should really be a program implemented for this.
    #28- has anyone a treatment center in the works for the lost souls upon #1 Awesome yet? Gonna be a sad day alright. Thanks for everything though Neil and everyone- been great fun.

  16. Most people do use algebra after school…. x(y)=z, solve for x. It comes up more than you realize.

  17. really a gr8 post !!!! I still remember……How we bet each other for just a chocolate and said “Lets see who completes learnin’ the tables first ” And how i boasted that i can dress up without my mother’S help and can even do my home work on my own !!!!! lovely days…..:)

  18. Thanks to Mrs. Chown for showing us you’re never too old for cartwheels when you’re excited! :)

  19. I remember busting my rear to learn the multiplication tables… Even today I can remember the tricks that Mrs. Werther taught me and I have not used them to teach my daughter. Awesome…

  20. Whoa, you learned about puberty, types of rocks and types of triangles in Year 3????? We learned about puberty in year 6, types of triangles in about year 7, and types of rocks only in year 9! And hygiene like lice checks and tooth-brushing- that was expected to be a home thing.
    But we did have reading time! All through primary school we had library lessons, and sometimes we were taught about the Dewy Decimal system, sometimes taught about different types of books like fiction, reference, non-fiction in general etc etc. And a lot of the time the librarian would read to us while we sat on the mat :)
    Another reading thing we did was at the end of year 3 when we started the practice run for AR (accelarated reading). I loved it! We did the proper course every year in years 4, 5, 6 and 7. You had to get out books from the AR section, and books were graded in certain levels and awarded a number of points for how hard and how long the book was. I remember the Harry Potters were in level 5-7! And you had a goal number of points to reach by the end of the year, and you were given the range of levels you were allowed to read up to. I was very proud in year 7 when I was given a golden pass, meaning i could read books from any level I wanted :D
    I remember learning cursive writing (NOT running writing!!) in year 3- we had to use it up until year 5 when we could get our ‘Pen License’, before which we had to use pencils. Most people ditched cursive when they had the chance like me, but others still use it today in Year 11.
    And there was one girl in our class who was very unpopular, who was widely known to smell bad. She left after year 3, but i still remember her.
    Our year 3 teacher’s name was Mrs Torrisi, and she was an alright teacher, but probably my best teacher so far has been either Mr McKenzie for homeroom, RE, english and SE in year 8, or Mr Dunn for maths last year (Spartacus74 I don’t think they’d be related!) Both were awesome teachers that were funny in their own different ways, handled the bad kids well and were nice to the good kids (like me!!) and they both liked me :D And they inspired me to learn, and they taught their subjects really well so yeah! It’s not just year 3 that we can thank the universe for!

  21. Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around
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    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

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