Receiving one’s formative education while one’s body is growing and maturing seems a cruel joke. Seriously. I mean, it’s not enough to battle learning to tie your shoes while memorizing the alphabet and learning to read, but it was child’s play compared to negotiating middle and high school with all of the screaming hormones competing for attention. And I was supposed to take tests and write essays? Puh-leeze.
My version of chemistry involved understanding the ingredients for Clearasil, knowing the best shade of mascara for me (in the 9th grade it was blue. It WAS the seventies after all), and worrying if my bell bottoms had a big enough bell. On top of that I was expected to read full-length novels (25-40 pages a night), do homework in all of the other core subjects, become proficient in a second language, diagram sentences, play interscholastic sports, do chores at home, pick up spending money in my spare time by babysitting or mowing lawns, have a social life, physically visit my friends at their houses, and read other books for fun. Oh yeah, tape songs from the AM radio, watch copious amounts of black and white TV, ride my bike everywhere and play albums. And somewhere along the way, boys became something more than teammates for kickball and flag football. It’s a wonder I could ever sit still in school.
I was a competent student. Though I admit I never really knocked myself out and things came pretty easily to me. But by the time I entered college, I realized I had no study skills whatsoever. My first time in the college bookstore I dutifully picked up all of the required texts and even bought one of those big fat yellow marker pens because everyone else was buying one. I had no clue what it was, only that it was a hideously obnoxious yellow. I was very excited to learn it was called a high lighter. But I had no idea what high lighting entailed. I figured it out by junior year.
I even liked school most of the time. It was interesting and I enjoyed learning stuff, unless it was math. Looking back now, I was a poor excuse for a student. But, dang it, I was 20 years old and had no clue about life. That’s not true. I was all too well acquainted with working a few jobs in order to pay for college and balancing a full load of academics while working 40 hours a week. Who knew you could major in reading novels in college? Actually, it’s called English. And darned if my professors didn’t try to entice us to understand all that was written “between the lines.” Yeah, most of that went over my head at that time. I get it all now. Too bad. It seems silly that I worked so hard to go to school, received a very good education but didn’t understand much of it then.
After 25 years of teaching high school English, I understand the frustrations of my teachers and professors when we sat there with blank stares. But you know what? We knew a heck of a great deal more than the current crop of students and our lives were far richer (substantive) for it. So, to all of my former teachers….I enjoyed sitting in your classes, for the most part, and I’m sorry if I wasn’t as astute as I could have been. I was a kid. At least I could read cursive handwriting, make change without a calculator and tell time on a non-digital clock. Ask a kid to do those things now, if you’re brave enough. Next time in the grocery store, when your bill is $12.14, take out a twenty and after the kid has punched in that you gave a twenty, add $2.25. Watch what happens….I’m giggling just thinking about it.