I guess we’re ALL back to school now, so how about this: How about we pretend I’m the teacher seated on one of those pint-size elementary school chairs and you guys are on the floor in front of me. Pretend we’re sitting in a sunny classroom where dust motes from the chalk lazily circle. Pretend everyone’s tummy is nicely full and we’re thus all feeling peaceful enough to take in some words of advice.
In that hope, I offer the following:
One, sit up front, whether your classroom is a literal or a figurative one, and let yourself be known, by both your teachers and your fellow students.
Two, if the teacher writes something on the board and you’re at an age where note-taking is the norm, then copy when s/he has said in your own notebook, even if it’s just a few word. If your teachers are going to the trouble of setting down something large and neat enough to be read from 30 feet away, then you should go to a little trouble too.
Three, make sure you actually LOOK AT this notebook after class. Even just glancing at what your teachers said and what you heard and copied down will help you begin knitting things together in your mind. I know someone who, for the Con-Law class she took in college, copied out all 27 Amendments to the Constitution and taped them at eye level around her dorm room, then read them twice a day as she brushed and brushed her waist-length hair. Does that sound old-fashioned? Maybe, but who can sniff at the reward of a Magna Cum Laude served up with a side of Phi Beta Kappa? I can tell you the effort felt worth it to her!
Four, don’t wait ‘til the last minute to write that term paper, composition or Compare-and-Contrast paragraph. Doing so will cause you to become unduly fond of what you have finally managed to get down on paper, just because it IS down on paper, and falling in love with your first draft is like growing fond of your shortcomings. If we are very lucky in life, the people who love us will grow fond even of our shortcomings over time, but that’s for them to do, not us. Waiting until the last minute will also cause you to panic and freeze as the deadline approaches, leading you to decide not to complete the assignment at all and take the F.
Five, never give up and take F. Making the effort in life counts way more than you can imagine at this stage of things.
Six, stay strong, as the saying goes. Remember who you are. Be mindful of the dignity of your family and of their struggles, and the dreams that have been dreamed for you.
Seven, about ganging up on others, even “in fun”: Do not participate in such behaviors, ever.
Eight, Don’t engage in gossip, or listen to gossip. Ugly speculation about others harms everyone. It withers the soul.
Nine, since sexual gossip is even worse, there is corollary: Do not speculate about what other people may or may have done or be doing in the sexual realm. If there was ever a topic that was none of your business this is it.
And finally, Ten, never laugh when someone asks a question. We’re here to ask questions, the little questions and especially the big ones. So ask away and think hard with your well-rested post-summer minds. Then come back and teach the rest of us what you’ve learned.