Generations Compare School Days

Generations Compare School Days

Vienna Elementary hosts annual Grandparents Day.

For Grandparents Day at Vienna Elementary, fourth-grader Mary Sherwood shared her favorite story about her grandfather, Joseph "Joe" E. Sherwood. She told the class how her grandfather crashed their car.

"And dad came yelling into the house," Mary said.

Grandfather shrugged.

"It was icy, and another car ran into me. She couldn’t wait to tell her momma," the senior Sherwood said.

Grandparents and grandchildren told stories like this during Vienna Elementary’s 24th annual Grandparents Day. More than 150 grandparents and relatives attended, despite Thursday’s drizzle. One relative drove in from Annapolis, and another flew in from Atlanta.

"I think that it is so neat to see the relationship between the students and the grandparents," said principal Linda Clark. "It brings out the best in the students."

Throughout the day, grandparents and grandchildren compared growing up back then vs. growing up now. Other than computers, television and other technologies, grandparents found that things hadn’t changed much.

That was the conclusion that some grandparents came to during their lunch of pizza and chicken wings.

"I think they think we rode around in wagons," said Trianne Freese of Vienna, a former teacher, who came for her granddaughter, fifth-grader Teranne Smith.

"I was very gratified to see they still have recess," added Gerrie Phibbs, Teranne's great aunt from Portsmouth, Va.

Great uncle Joe Phibbs said he noticed something different about the teaching. When he grew up, he had to learn poems by heart. As he got older, he saw a de-emphasis on memorization and an emphasis on research. Now he says memorization is coming back.

"Some things are coming full circle," Phibbs said.

Grandparents Gerry and Joan Kadonoff of McLean both grew up in Montreal, and they remembered how they had to walk back and forth from school.

"It was cold," Gerry Kadonoff said.

As the grandparents compared their observations, students Teranne Smith and Michaela Kadonoff listened, enjoying their lunch.

"I’m very happy because they came from Norfolk," Teranne said of her great uncle and aunt.

Fifth-grader Michaela described her favorite part of Grandparents Day.

"Eating lunch with them," Michaela said.

A HANDFUL OF GRANDPARENTS attended the school themselves. Lucille McManamay Curry started attending Vienna Elementary in 1934. Her two brothers also attended the school, as did her daughter and two grandchildren.

Curry was eating lunch with her grandson, Zachary Jester, a second-grader, and Sandy and Kevin Jester, Zachary’s parents. Brother Nicky was in school at Madison.

Several reminiscences came up in Curry’s mind as she compared Vienna Elementary then with the school now. The school used to have seven classrooms around an auditorium, with a very small cafeteria in the basement. Students had soup and crackers for lunch and had to walk in the rain and dry off their clothes during class. It was a mile walk to the school bus, and the school bus ride was a mile or two to the school.

Curry recalled a less savory memory as well.

"They gave us cod liver oil every winter," she said. "Eewww," said Sandy Jester.

This hasn’t been the first Grandparents Day that Curry has attended, but she said she’s enjoyed every one. Her favorite part of being at Thursday’s Grandparents Day was "just the idea of being here with Zachary," Curry said.

GRANDPARENTS AND STUDENTS aren’t the only ones who enjoy Grandparents Day. Some teachers say they enjoy the occasion as well. They also like to hear the grandparents’ stories.

"To me, the kids’ eyes light up when they hear what their grandparents did in elementary school," said first grade teacher Pat Hopkins, who’s been at Vienna Elementary for 17 years.

Fellow first-grade teacher Kim Rose said grandparents themselves are impressed by their grandchildren.

"They’re amazed, too, at how much they’re learning in first grade," Rose said.

One amazed grandparent was Joe Sherwood. Like Lucille McManamay Curry, Sherwood attended Vienna Elementary as a child, from 1933-40. Just the other day, Sherwood clipped out a history paragraph from a recent local paper. Sixty-six years ago in October 1936, the paragraph read, the School Board made bus service available to 18 Vienna schoolchildren who lived on Beulah Road. Sherwood was one of the 18.

Students still learn the same basics, Sherwood said, but he thinks students now learn so much more than he ever did.

"I was very impressed by the computer room," Sherwood said. "That’s when I realized I don’t know how I got out of elementary school and high school."