Hair Ties and Mount Rushmore


When I was in the fourth grade, I participated in a social studies fair for the first and only time. Mostly, the schools I attended after that didn’t have them, but looking back, I think at least a bit of the reason was how that project turned out. Also, science is more fun.

My two friends and I teamed up for a project on Mount Rushmore. They were school friends, girls to whose homes I never went, and never visitors to mine. As cynical as I’ve become as an adult, I have to wonder if we were really friends or if I was an easy A for them. Nine-year-olds are certainly that savvy, but were they? I’ll never know. I don’t even remember their names now; I just have a picture in my head of the little black girl with pigtails and the little white girl with pigtails–apparently pigtails were all the rage in my fourth grade class.


And I’ve just wasted a solid ten minutes googling what the hair ties with the plastic balls are called, because those were definitely all the rage in my fourth grade class. Without coming to a consensus. Bobbles? Bubbles? Ball hair ties? No idea.

But back to Mount Rushmore.

We spent a bit of time in the school library gathering books on Mount Rushmore, looking for pictures, that sort of thing. And then I went home and wrote the report.

They didn’t read much of anything. Or draw much of anything. Or even use that much white glue on our posterboard. In the end, it was my social studies project, not ours.

Of course we got busted, and I’m certain I was orders of magnitude more embarrassed than they were, being the shy little teacher’s pet that I was. There was our project, standing on a desk, and the judges came around. One of them asked my friend a question and she stuttered a bit before I took over with the answer. He asked my other friend a different question, and she stuttered a bit before I tried to answer, but he cut me off, and the judges moved on to the next project.

We didn’t win, or even place.

Afterwards, my teacher pulled me aside after class and spoke to me about letting others take credit for my hard work. Holy cow, but I was naive then. Then? What am I saying? I didn’t grow out of that until my mid-thirties. My husband has pointed out to me times when my supervisors have taken credit for things that I’ve done or ideas that I’ve implemented. And now I just don’t care who gets credit for what, because it’s not like I’m going to get a raise either way, but no one else is getting a raise either.

But thank you, Mrs. Huard, for trying to teach me that one person doing all the work in a group is not teamwork, no matter how much that one person enjoys it. No matter how much easier it is for that one person to just do it herself. Thank you for trying to tell me that you thought my friends were taking advantage of me. Most of all, thank you for giving us all an A on the project in spite of all this.

And Mrs. Huard? You’d be proud of how much my handwriting has improved since the fourth grade. But I don’t write in cursive too often anymore.