I think back to my late brother’s school days

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My brother Kelvin and I have used space in our respective Daily Republic columns over the years to talk about our older brother Kenneth, who tragically took his girlfriend’s life before taking his own. It was 32 years ago today.

My brother was more than his last horrible deeds. He was funny, smart, creative, and turned his habit of annoying his brothers into an art form.

I recently came across some of Ken’s newsletters and wanted to share what teachers were saying about him during his early years when we lived in Norfolk, Virginia.

Ken attended Breezy Point Kindergarten in 1966 and 1967 (the same one I did three years later) and one of the things of interest to me are some of the categories covered in the report card. They understand: participates in class discussions, expresses ideas well orally, works and plays well with others, listens to instructions, follows instructions, practices self-control, is happy and well-adjusted.

Tony Wade, Back in the Day

Specific tasks such as cut and paste (not digital type), coloring, painting, singing and rhythms have also been covered.

Each category received either an O for outstanding, an S for satisfactory, an I for improvement, or an N for needing improvement. Ken had very few O’s, but lots of S’s and some S+’s. His teacher, Ms Mason, said in her comments: “Kenneth is an excellent student. It was a pleasure to have him in kindergarten, but I hope that next year he can relax a bit and enjoy school more.

Ken’s Willoughby Elementary School report card for first grade has a few things that jumped out at me. First, on the plus side, he had perfect attendance. But then he was always a very healthy kid, unlike yours truly who was a sickly asthmatic who missed huge chunks of third grade because of it. On the negative side, there was what was in the category of self-control, more precisely under the heading “Does not make unnecessary noise” – there was an N.

In the fourth term, Ken excelled as a reader and the teacher noted this. Some comments made me laugh.

Second term: “Kenneth is still doing his best and we are pleased with the progress he is making in his first year. He’s such a sweet little boy!

Third trimester: “Kenneth continues to do well in first grade, but this quiet little kid has learned to talk – too much!”

One interesting thing is that the ballots had to be signed and returned and my mother signed it as was the custom at the time, not using her first name but “Mrs. Orvis T. Wade Sr. My wife never signed her name as Mrs. Anthony O. Wade, though now I am tempted to try to sign mine as Mr. Beth S. Wade.

As a sophomore at Willoughby, Ken somehow established himself as a student and he received an E for Excellent in many subjects including speaking and writing, handwriting, spelling, social studies , science, art, music and arithmetic. Obviously, he was doing so well in the language arts that he was taken to the next level.

Oh, and my mom signed it using her own first name.

Ken also had excellent grades in fourth grade, but in citizenship, his teacher wrote, “Kenny often bothers his classmates to get attention. It really isn’t necessary since he has their respect and friendship without such actions. Maybe encouragement about the things he does well will help him realize he has a lot to offer.

In sixth grade at Camp Allen Elementary School, Ken’s academic talent was somewhat overshadowed by his lack of interpersonal skills. The teacher wrote, “Kenneth does not exhibit any of the desired social skills listed. He seems basically uninterested in doing well in class activities.

As an eighth grader at Blair Junior High School, it seems like the wheels have somehow come loose. He had two Ds, one B and three Cs. The teacher’s comments were that study materials were not brought to class, homework was not completed and there was a lack of participation at work in class. The classes themselves were very 1970s and included “Imagination”, “You Consumer” and “Sea Voyage”.

I’m not sure if some of the things the teachers mentioned about Ken were predictors of his later problems, but I do know that regardless, I miss him and wish he were here today.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, 1-800-SUICIDE or www.suicidehotlines.com can help.

Freelance Fairfield humor columnist and local accidental historian Tony Wade writes two weekly columns: “The Last Laugh” on Mondays and “Back in the Day” on Fridays. Wade is also the author of The History Press book “Growing Up In Fairfield, California”, published in 2021 and the upcoming History Press book “Lost Restaurants of Fairfield, California” which will be published on July 4.

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