As young ones, tots, and teenagers make their way through their first week of school, I wanted to take a moment to reassure them and their parents that their public grade-school education is worth every tax-payer dollar. The truth is, I learned more about life traveling through grades k-12 than in college, grad school, and “the real world” combined. Here are a few highlights of my suburban, middle-class primary education, wherein I learned…
The choral room of my junior high school was in a subterranean, double concrete enforced room. At the entrance to the stairwell was not only a sign that said “Chorus,” but a yellow configuration of triangles signalling that the room was a remnant of the building’s Cold War construction.
2. Gym Class isn’t long enough and should be every day.
3. Nap time isn’t long enough and should be every day.
4. How to right a capsized canoe.
We had a pool. It was fancy and indoors and you could paddle around it in a canoe. During the swimming rotation of gym class, we had one day dedicated to water safety and water rescue. As a member of the swim team, I was made “captain” of a rescue team. 4 of us got in a canoe. Flipped it. Righted it. Then rescued the one idiot who got smacked in the head with the paddle when we capsized. This is a skill set that has come in handy more than once, I hate to admit.
5. Sumac that points down is poisonous. Sumac berry clusters that point up make great lemonade.
My 7th grade science teacher used to build bow & arrows and hunt deer with spears. He was the original Bear Grylls. As a result, our class curriculum was less NY State mandated and more wild-life survival.
6. Homemade cards for mom always trump something from Hallmark… even if they make absolutely no sense and look like something your dog painted.
I had an old school Bronx Italian English teacher for 2 back to back years. It was Romeo and Juliette year, so we watched West Side Story in class. He wanted to make sure we’d be prepared if we were ever in a rumble.
8. It’s not about what you’re selling. It’s all about how it’s marketed.
As part of a social studies project, I had to set up a company with a team of classmates. We made “organic, all-natural, handmade soap.” By handmade I meant we purchased bars of pre-made glycerin soap, melted it down and poured it into molds, with hand-selected trinkets scattered within the forms. Technically, we didn’t make the soap, but we did do 2/3 of the work by hand. Including the branded paper-bags I created by rolling brown lunch bags through my printer. We made a killing — at the end of the assignment, we had the highest profits. As CEO and Creative Director, I was pretty well convinced I’d end up with an MBA from Wharton before my 18th birthday.
9. Frozen pizza on Fridays is delicious, if not horrendously lazy.
10. Nothing holds more potential than the first page of a new notebook (let’s just say, I consider this a metaphor for life in general)