Damn You, Mrs. Hodge...

In an effort to motivate a class of emerging, disinterested adolescents, my sixth grade teacher split the class into two teams; based on spelling test scores, behavior, participation, and a number of other factors I can't seem to recall, students were rewarded with points, and those points counted towards a team collective score. At the end of two weeks, whichever team had the most points won.

And there were prizes, usually a sucker or candy bar for each kid on the winning team, once in a while it was a can of soda given just before lunch.

Yeah, that wouldn't fly today, with uber-senstive helicopter parents whining about their precious progeny's sense of self esteem. It wouldn't be fair for little Donovanella to have to sit there, a loser, watching while some of her friends got to have a candy bar while she didn't. Why, that might scar her for life!

But it worked. We wanted to be on the winning team, so we made huge efforts to get there. We kept each other in check, we diffused potential fights without having to rely on an adult, we helped each other learn those 12-letter spelling words. We participated in class discussions and learned to not make fun of the kid with the stutter who was just trying to get his answer out without crying; we learned patience. If our team lost, oh well. There was always the next two weeks, always something to look forward to.

And the teacher wasn't stupid; she frequently mixed the teams. Roughly every six weeks she rattled the rosters and new teams were formed. We got to spend an afternoon deciding a new team name, and creating a new team poster. It was a lesson in compromise; we had to come up with more than one potential name, discuss its merits versus its drawbacks, and vote on it. We had to conceptualize a design for our team poster, and then create it. The process helped bring out a sense of fairness and cooperation, and we learned that just because our idea wasn't picked, that didn't mean it wasn't a good one. Sometimes it just meant that someone else's idea made for a better poster.

Towards the end of the school year, the more artistic kids always had ideas ripping through their heads and often had sketched out poster designs ready to go. One kid, I think his name was Ken, noted that we had some really bright yellow poster board, and he had a ready supply of purple markers, and wouldn't it be funny to draw polka dots all over it? And wouldn't it be really hysterical to draw a hehhehehe girl in a bikini on it? We could hehehehe show her belly button on it. And at the top of the poster we could kind of have these hehehehe boobs...just like the bottom half. Then her waist and the bikini bottoms hehehehe.

Thusly did we become the Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Bunch.

I remembered all that yesterday when a commercial popped up on TV; some woman trying desperately to hide her bathing suit clad body as that song played in the background. I laughed, hummed along, and remembered those teams and how much fun they were, even when we lost.

And later on I realized that other song was no longer stuck in my head.

No, now I have It was an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini that she wore for the first time today... stuck in that empty space between my ears.

Over and over and over.

It was there when I went to sleep last night and there when I woke up, and it's still there.

I totally blame my 6th grade teacher.

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