10 Things I Learned in School…and NOT in the Curriculum!
(Why? Because I’m fishing for a topic, any topic and this is what came up.)
1) Avoid Drinking Fountains —
In second grade, I developed mononucleosis. Ugh! The doctor informed my mother that it was from the drinking fountain at school.
I’ve avoided the things like the plague ever since. Personal water bottles are a wondrous thing.
2) What Goes Up Must Come Down —
And I’m not speaking in the scientific sense here.
Through the first few years of grade school, my social position was fairly high. I might not have been one of the uber-popular kids, but I certainly wasn’t bottom of the heap.
For various reasons, I spent several years moving from place to place, school to school. In my junior high school days I realized that I’d been one of the popular snots that were the bane of my existence.
A most humbling thought for a budding teenager. Visceral karma in action.
3) Mouthing Off Has Immediate Consequences —
My freshman year was decent – one school, kids I’d known from the previous year, a couple of good friends and a decent art class.
(Not to mention that the previous years’ bullies were now lowly little freshmen themselves, and much nicer to me as a result.)
There were two badass sophomore girls, girls I didn’t know. Once one of them made a comment about me kissing her ass. I off-handedly remarked that it looked too much like her face.
You probably know what happened next… ACK!
They hounded me for the rest of the year—tripped me between classes, pushed me, continued the verbal abuse (that I’d sling right back.)
Which invariably brings me to the next lesson:
4) You Can Avoid a Fight —
Always being the new kid made me quite adept at this.
Of course, my ‘fresh meat’ status gave me the freedom to act the coward without social liability.
(No need to prove you’re tough if you don’t have any friends to impress.)
As mentioned above, I had a pair of bullies on my tail. I was successful in avoiding a serious scuffle with them throughout the year.
All in all, there was only one time that a teacher saved me from a fight; he stepped out of his classroom as the Deadly Duo had be doubled-over by the hair. Whew!
Thank gods for a natural talent in sneakiness!
5) Shakespeare’s Actually Alright —
In Lewiston, Idaho, the local theater troupe put on a production of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ in the high school theater. The entire school attended it over the course of two days.
Wow! I’d had to read it in Drama class, but could never get into the thing.
Seeing it on stage was a mind blower! In fact, I learned that plays themselves are pretty cool!
6) Don’t Get Comfortable —
An unfortunate side effect of constantly being on the move, I learned fairly early not to make friends and don’t have plans for the future.
I forgot that in my junior year.
We’d stayed for two years in Lewiston. At the end of my junior year, I was eagerly awaiting the next.
I had big plans, you know! Computer programming was one of the science options, and I really wanted to go into the computer sciences like my father.
But that summer, we moved hundreds of miles away to a smaller school with fewer resources and certainly no computer science classes.
I also had to waste time on a couple of classes to make up credits that hadn’t been required for graduation at my previous school.
After that, I drifted aimlessly for years. ’t took a number of years to get past that mind set, let me tell you!
7) Creativity —
Ah, third grade, with Martha Anderson and Denise Stevenson. Martha was new in our class, and she was an excellent addition to Denise and I.
We played Star Trek quite a bit that year!
Do you remember those brown cardboard notebooks, similar to the Composition Notebooks available today? We scavenged ours and created Star Trek communicators out of them.
(I remember getting mine taken away in class! Geek from the word GO!)
We had an outstanding teacher that year who encouraged us in our pursuits. She allowed us to ‘study’ American Indians on our own time and do art projects during recess.
I can’t remember her name, but she was a fantastic teacher!
8) Sign Language —
Seventh grade in Notus, Idaho, probably one of the best schools I had the fortune to enter. It was a one classroom grade, only thirty-some of us there, and I didn’t receive any of the crap that I got before or after when attending a new school.
(We had a few children of migratory workers in the crowd. I wasn’t the only “new kid” in the room, and the other children were used to the fluid nature of their classmates.)
A handful of the kids knew the American Sign Language alphabet, and taught it to me as a matter of course. I spent the entire year passing sign language ‘notes’ in class to my friends.
9) Every School Has… Something —
I’ve attended twelve schools in twelve years. (Seventh was the Hel Year — three schools that year!) In every school, there was something unique and fun, despite the constant “new kid” torture.
In Donnelly, Idaho, they had Pioneer Days. We met a real mountain man, built a small log cabin in the schoolyard, made toys and played the games that our forebears had.
Lewiston High had a cool science department. Every semester you moved to the next classroom over, and learned something that appeared completely unrelated, but was still based in Biology.
Even depressing Caldwell High had Mrs. Olive Elliott and the Literature of Tomorrow class! She’s the one who first suggested I could be a writer.
I never attended a school that didn’t have something going for it.
10) Flexibility —
For years after graduating I drifted along without any goals.
My education was sketchy as each school taught different things at different levels than the one I’d just left.
After the major upset in my senior year, I hardly tried toward the end. I graduated with a piddly 2.79 grade point average.
(Max is 4.0, for those who don’t know the American education grading system.)
I knew what it was like to be popular, to be the lowest of the low. I experienced both being picked on and the insecurity of viciously teasing others.
I could strip a log to build a cabin, program a computer, avoid a fight, smart off, act in a play, write a poem, market a product, write shorthand, type…
The list is endless. I inadvertently learned how to get along with people outside of class (both schoolroom class and social class.)
I’ve been the bully, the new kid, the thief, the asshole, the whiner, the class clown, the freak, the brainiac and more.
I couldn’t write as well as I do or understand characterization without my educational history.
I used to curse my childhood because it kept me adrift with no roots, even now in my middle age.
But these days I marvel at the words I write and can easily point to my past as the fertile ground that taught me so much about the human spirit.
And though I occasionally daydream about what life would have been like in a stable environment, I have to say I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything.
How About You?
Can you come up with 10 Things You Learned in School? What are they?
People fascinate me (though my introversion short circuits my ability for conversation much of the time.) I’d love to hear what your experience was.
The more I (and other writers) learn about people, the better characters we develop!
Comment below and join the conversation!
A fan-geek and internet junkie, D Jordan Redhawk is an award winning writer of lesbian romance, writing in multiple genres. She highlights the outsider and reveals that we are not all that different from one another. Her books are published by Bella Books. You can reach Redhawk through her website, Facebook, or become a Patron!