Monday, November 25, 2013

What's the most useful lesson you learned in school?

The discussion started when Jack came home from school one day, asking me to scratch his femur. "It's really itchy..." he said, then continued with: "That's likely cause it's the largest bone in my body. That's for sure why it's so itchy." My mouth hung open. I may have even started to drool a bit. I was completely unaware that they were learning all of these things in Grade One. If this is what our children are now learning when they’re six-years old, then remind me to secure a tutor to survive the next eleven years of school...maybe I’ll get one for the kids as well. When reflecting on lessons I learned in school, I'm 100% certain we did not cover this stuff when we were in Grade One. We were far too involved chewing boogers, waiting for our finger-paint creations to dry. Seriously.

 One of their health tests posed the following question: “There is a muscle that pushes up and down under the lungs to get air in and out of the lungs. What is it called?” Of the multiple choice responses provided, Jack chose “biceps”. I should maybe have a discussion with him about his answer for that one. That's a tricky one, Jack. Mommy pushes her biceps up under her lungs, but mostly because she's just trying to make her breasts look bigger. In all other instances, then the answer is likely the diaphragm. Chin up, little buddy. That was an honest mistake. If you lived with normal parents, you would have aced that one.

 For your viewing pleasure, you can check out my blog post here, where I’ve posted a video clip of Jack teaching me the body parts. There are (so very) many things wrong with this video, including (but not limited to) the following:
  1. That my six year old son knows more than me.
  2. That he wanted to embed a lesson on compound words into his body parts lecture. Too much, too soon.
  3. That he firmly believes the uterus is an extension of the throat, male or female. A few months ago he lost a tooth. He told us that it swirled around and around in his mouth, and that he almost swallowed it. "It just about fell into my uterus." he gravely informed us. Apparently this is something that he’s learned from school. Granted, the word esophagus is a tricky one. Clearly it’s much harder to remember than the word uterus. Cue premature discussion on difference between uterus and esophagus, as a preventative measure so he can avoid perennial beatings from kids at school.

What’s the most useful lesson that you ever learned in school? When I asked the question here, the responses ranged across the board, and I could relate to almost every one of them. It reminds me of how similar we all are in our struggles, insecurities and past experiences, and of all the good out there in the world – people just wanting to do well, feel accepted and be loved for who there are. One reader shared, “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, it’s how you treat the people around you." Amen to that. I learned very early on never to use intelligence as a weapon to make yourself feel bigger or better than somebody else. (Where I came from, pretending not to be smart was the most effective way of avoiding a serious beating from the other kids at recess. That, or being force fed their boogers.) As I get older, I'm extremely aware that how I treat people is the one thing I will always remember, good or bad. Being kind is something you will never regret. Being a complete fuckwit and hurting someone’s feelings is something you will never forget.  Your choice.
In my opinion, being kind should be a non-negotiable in school systems and homes across the country. If our children are raised with kindness and acceptance for who they are, they in turn will become pillars of the earth, for their strength will always bear the weight (of the fuckwits).

Here forthwith, are your responses to the most useful lesson you ever learned in school.
If you’re referring to what happens within four walls and at a desk, then probably it’s that I am far more capable that I believe I am. Effort means everything and I half-assed my way through school. Now, if you’re being existential where all of life is a school, then it would be in 1994 – a friend I met on my travels told me to stop worrying so much about everything. He said “So what if you happen to miss a train or a bus? There will always be another one along in a few minutes.” That just helped me look at my travels from a whole new perspective, where I could just go and be a traveller, relax and enjoy the adventure of it all. I try and apply that same principle to all aspects of my life.

I hated the actual academic part of school! But I loved the socializing part. Not sure what the most useful lesson was. I’d have to think on that.

Boys are stupid.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Don’t be afraid to ask for something.

Your school years do not define who you are.

The opportunity cost equation in Economics 101!

Long division! You look pretty smart without a calculator.

People do not always remember what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

My love of reading.

The most useful lesson I learned is that people usually lie because they are afraid of something.

Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Things happen for a reason. Ideas come from somewhere.

It’s not about which kid is necessarily the smartest – it’s about which kid works the hardest to reach their goals.

I honestly can’t think of one from school, but my Dad always taught me to work hard at everything I do. I believe that one’s really important.

You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors.

Include everyone. No bullying. Period. Everyone has feelings and can easily be hurt. It is ALL RIGHT to be different. People are ALL different…religions, body shapes, intelligence, the way we see things…and thank God for all the differences. That is what makes life so interesting. Be OK with the differences.

The most clinical answer is typing – super useful. And the other side of this…I learned the value of going to a very small school in a tight knit community. It’s a blessing, and in some ways, a burden. But I’ll tell you – there’s nothing like a small school community to make a kid feel safe, supported and encouraged when they need it. Our boys are growing up in the same school system that I went through and I feel so lucky that this is where they’re getting their academic start.

The most useful lesson I learned in school? TAKE NOTES!


Keep your folder on the shelf. Translation: keep your shit organized.

Stick to your strengths – a good dose of realism can be a good thing.

It’s never too early to show leadership skills. Don’t be afraid of your strengths, but use them wisely.

Don’t cheat and have respect for one another.

Never assume, because you will make an ass out of you and me.

The most useful lesson I learned is that the principal’s door wasn’t sound proof.

It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.

Economics. Markets work as they should as mankind is insatiable and government intervention predominantly does not produce the desired effect.

Be kind to others. I don’t recall this level of bullying back when I was in school 40 years ago.

Care. If people care about what they are doing, it will be done right. From treating people properly to doing a good job on whatever you’re spending your time on. Same lesson in university as it was in elementary school.

I learned that everyone is insecure. We just cope differently.

That’s a tough one! I remember getting picked to be valedictorian (humble, I know…) and thinking – why are they picking someone so average? I did not get the highest marks, nor was I the most talented in sports nor was I the most charismatic or popular. I was average. I was shocked. But then I started thinking that maybe somewhere it does pay off to work hard and be average at a lot of things. Maybe it is about balance. Maybe that does count! Maybe working hard and being involved does matter, even if you aren’t the star that stands out. (or maybe someone pissed off the Principal, and I hadn’t! LOL) either way, I was thrilled. I don’t want my kids to be mediocre – but well rounded- yes, I am good with that!

Be kind to others, because you never know how you will impact their life. You also never know who will become your boss one day…awkward.

I had a teacher in high school who had a huge impact on my life. She taught me that life is never perfect and I shouldn’t ever pretend it is. Just live, love, laugh, dream and don’t sweat the small stuff. And always, always be true to yourself.

The most valuable thing I would say I learned from school was that presentation, or approach, is key.

Do not procrastinate!!!

How to stand up for myself. And if that meant beating up the strongest and toughest chick in school, well I guess that’s what I had to do. Not my first choice, but I was tired of being picked on.

The most useful lesson I learned in school was learning how to read. It opened up a whole world for a little depression-age boy, and after leaving at an early age, I was able to keep learning.

An education is never wasted. And don’t sit at the back of the bus.

Going through life fat, drunk and stupid is no way to live – wait, that was Animal House – what I learned was don’t believe what everyone says about someone. Envy and lack of understanding means you might not get to know a really amazing person.

I am accountable for my own work. It’s not the teacher’s fault.

Hmmm, this is tough. School taught me to deal with peer pressure and how to rise above being picking on by using humour.

Ignorance is the true enemy.

School really doesn’t prepare you for the real world.

I had a teacher who really expected a lot from us…she relished the opportunity to mold us. It’s because of her that I evolved into a career that had a lot to do with communication and writing.

How to read!!! It’s the biggest and most important thing I’ve ever accomplished.

I learned the difference between real friends and the people that you hang out with.

Don’t throw candy down the toilet. And speak up for your convictions no matter how crazy they may construe in your mind.

“Tomato”. My high school math teacher once told us that it was NEVER acceptable to leave a test answer blank – that was just a guaranteed zero! He said that we should always write something, even if we wrote “tomato” on a math test, just write something!!! I did get stumped once on one of his tests – but got partial marks for writing “tomato” as my answer. This lesson served me well in university, in my career, in life – spinning something, anything, into a bullshit answer is always better that staring in silence.

That individuals who are high performers get ridiculed even when they don’t look for any sort of recognition.

Trust yourself to trust others, even if you get burned along the way.

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me. One of my classmates in Grade 3 told me this one day as I was crying on the playground because two other girls would not play with me, and overall were not being very nice. The saying has always stuck with me.

I didn’t pay attention to much of anything in school – I was there to socialize! Unfortunately I did not learn much.

Approaching a professor after getting your paper back and haggling them can very easily earn you up to 7% more, regardless of the quality of your paper.

All of your schooling is useful, even if it doesn’t seem like you are using it today.

To stand up for those who cannot do it for themselves. Education doesn’t always come from books. Oh, and I had this really weird gym/health teacher that really emphasized the importance of “underarm charm”.

Getting a low passing grade in physical education is OK if you don’t plan to earn a living playing baseball.

Go outside.

The most useful lesson is, regardless of time or geography, we all need the same basic essentials: food, clean water, safe shelter and a loving family and community.

Don’t pee-pee in your pants in Kindergarten class or the teacher will make you wear those dreaded purple pants and all the kids will know that no one wears purple pants like that…so you must have pee-peed in your pants.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are, it’s how you treat the people around you.

Do onto others as you would have done to you.

That just because someone doesn’t understand something or isn’t paying attention, doesn’t mean they are stupid. They may just need more of a challenge. This was the case for me in several of my classes; I just never realized I was bored until a teacher pulled me aside and asked why I couldn’t focus for longer than 15 minutes in class. I apply this every day to my children because they may just be bored and need a challenge, and as their educator, I need to recognize that and provide them with it.

You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to get along with everyone.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Let's talk about "x"...

For new readers, please click here to follow this journey from the beginning. Here are the responses to question #4, well actually technically question #5 as the original question #4:  "Which of your nipples hurts more, the right or the left?" prompted a slew of incessant moaning and unmentionable responses, not to mention a rather uninteresting 50/50 split on right/left nipple chaffing.

So, onwards and upwards. The question at hand: "What's the one topic we should talk about more openly? Put another way, what's something you wish you could bring up more often but just don't, for whatever reason?"

A while back I shared that I had a hard time following the birth of my first child. (Click here for full story.) After the birth of my subsequent children, I braced myself for darkness to fall yet again. But it never did. That’s when I looked back at those first few weeks following the birth of my first and declared, “What the fuck was that?” Although never officially diagnosed, I think I had postpartum depression. Being a good, old fashioned suck-it-up-buttercup farm kid, I fought my way through it blindly. I never visited a Doctor, or shared my darkest demons with family and friends. No one talks about such things. How dare we admit to being sad following the birth of a beautiful, healthy child? That’s just not done. That would be weird…frowned upon, even. Looking back now, I find it surprising that more people don’t talk about it. But I can understand why.

What frightened me so badly? I was scared to death of letting my son down, and we had only just met. I was terrified of being that vulnerable, reluctant to bare my soul that openly at the risk of looking foolish...scared shitless that I didn't have all the answers. If I felt that way about something so fresh, imagine the horror of sharing feelings that have been left lying in a shallow grave for years?

Why the shame, friends? What does holding in our deepest fears actually do for us in the end? I suspect it's ego-related - a determined measure to save our pride, keep up appearances. I've heard it said that when it comes to being completely honest, our three biggest fears are loss of power, loss of personal brand (what others may think) or loss of a relationship. Over the years, I've fallen prey to a combination of all three. I can also tell you this - if you let these fears blind you, then you open the door to a much bigger loss lurking in the shadows. The loss of you - your breath, your essence, your soul. Don't do it. Don't hold it all in. We weren't designed to walk this path alone. We were never destined to be perfect. And in the end, what's the portrayal of a perfectly shiny veneer really worth to you? Particularly if the inevitable end result is a  big, steaming pile of bullshit. 

I hereby resolve to talk more openly about stuff that's bothering me. This won't land well on some people. But hey, fuck 'em. If they can't handle your blinding honesty then the relationship wasn't worth keeping in the first place. Because if we can't share these feelings and question their merit, explore our souls, learn from each, help each other, help ourselves - feel real, really real - then tell me please, what exactly is the point?

Here, forthwith, are the things you'd like to talk about more.

Our role as a rich country in helping those less fortunate. This is a humanitarian issue…we don’t talk about it enough. In fact, ever. I don’t think fortunate people should feel guilty, however we need to find more ways to distribute and give to those who don’t have anything. How is it that some don’t have a glass of water to drink, and yet we fill our bathtubs every night? How can our world of plenty have so many with nothing? Why don’t we talk about it? Instead we’re preoccupied with who got kicked off Survivor, or which girl The Bachelor picked in the end. It isn’t right. It’s not OK. We need to start talking about this.

Peoples’ “ists”. As in racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic. These are real, clear issues shared by many, all with a direct line to causing seriously bad behaviors and attitudes amongst people. When comments are made, these situations become taboo to acknowledge; nobody wants to judge. I think we should talk more openly and try to correct these “ists”.

How we feel about each other. I think it would be amazing to break down the “awkward” barriers and be able to be open with each other about how we really feel.

Sex. It’s the cornerstone of every species existence, yet perceived as a taboo topic amongst family.

Hurt feelings.

Grief. It’s impossible to put to words but it has to come out because it poisons your soul if you don’t.

How we REALLY feel without pissing anybody off.

How unhappy we can be with so much – what is wrong with the world?

Lately I am learning about vulnerability and shame. How we are all trying to hide our shame and how our egos and what the “Jones’s” are up to is keeping us from our true selves. It’s a journey I’m on, and would love to talk more about it. Millions of books have been sold on it, yet my “close” friends would think I’m crazy to about this. Ego and fear keep this subject to a minimum, in my world anyway.

Vaccinations for children.

How we really feel inside. I think most of the time we pretend we are okay, so that others around us feel comfortable.

I think we are too afraid to ask for what we want. Either we are too polite or don’t want to hurt feelings of look greedy.  I’m not sure. Even with our life partners, I think we are sometimes too apologetic in asking for what we want of need. And yes, that includes s-e-x.

Relationship issues.

Bowel movements.

The stress that parenting a teen has on your marriage.

Paranormal activities, specifically those people that see energy around them and can communicate with those who have crossed over.

Why women have such low confidence, and let jealousy come between us and other women. We need to figure this one out, and then figure out how to instill confidence and self-love in our children!

Failure. What true happiness is. This is a hard one. I don’t feel open enough to answer it honestly.

I am very personal and shy. But as a new mom, and young wife, there are so many questions I wish I had the courage to ask someone who is older and wiser. I wish I were able to share my heart without worrying about what people think.

What we love about people. We seem to always wait until it’s too late.

Mental health issues, particularly depression.

Anything related to sex or personal body parts. I still have a hard time talking about it, and it should be something that’s celebrated, not ignored.

Relationships. Of all kinds.


Mistakes from the past – at least the unresolved ones. I do believe that these should be hashed out, not that they’ll be resolved necessarily, but at least so that everyone can get all their shit off their chests!

Apathy and the ability to take action.

Miscarriages. I think it’s healthy to talk openly about the loss felt from a miscarriage, whether it’s early on in the pregnancy or near the end. It’s still a taboo subject and yet half of all pregnancies end in miscarriages. I think it’s part of the healing to talk about the loss and all the feeling that come with it.

What scares us and why.

Mental health issues. They exist and are more prevalent the more stress we experience. Why is the topic still so taboo?

The importance of faith in God, not religion.

Money. It is the root, in my opinion, of the breakdown of a lot of marriages. I learned the hard way.

The emotional and physical health of our elders, specifically our parents. I didn’t really know my parents until my dad was terminally ill, but on the bright so we were able to discuss prostates, colostomy bags and sexual health on a regular basis at the dinner table. It took facing death to realize that our parents hold back on how they are really doing and really feeling, I think in part because that’s their generation, and in part because I think they want to protect their children. They were just as scared as my sister and I, and ironically enough, it was refreshing to get to know my parents as adults…as equals. It helped me deal with the whole situation better because I knew more about how my parents were dealing with it. They get scared, they hurt, they have feelings, and they get angry with God just the same as I do, but I never realized it until it was almost too late.

Marriage, and how hard it is. Why do marriages fall apart? Why do some stay together? And not just stay together, but truly want to stay together. Let’s face it, “till death do us part” is a really long time.
How we really feel. I’m not talking so much at work, but at home. I know I’m not open (not sure why) with my husband about my insecurities, self-esteem, how some things he may do, or not do, makes me feel, and that’s really a shame. I do encourage my children to talk to me about things even though I can’t. I don’t want them to not open up. So far, it’s working. People are often shocked at the honest conversations my daughter has with us. We encourage it and always have. If we didn’t encourage her from a very young age, there is no way she’d be talking to us now as a teenager!
Equality. I used to bring it up all the time, however a lot of my family is very close-minded (slightly racist and definitely homophobic) and they change the subject as quickly as humanly possible. I think the more we talk about equal rights for all, regardless of face, social status and sexual orientation, it eventually won’t be that big of a deal.
Right now in public schools they’re talking about sexual differences, and how everyone should fit in a public school. Ever try to be different in a small town? No fun. Ever try to be different in a small Catholic town? Impossible! Although I have my own personal (religious) views on this, I think that it’s critical to teach kids (and adults) that we need to be respectful and tolerant and considerate of others, even if their choice is different than ours. I want that for my kids. Getting the guts up to address this in my small Catholic community is something else altogether.
I want to talk about having family night more often.
Sharing how we really feel. The good and the bad.

Health and society’s lack of, should be talked about more openly! People need to be accountable and take responsibility for their actions. It’s just too easy for people to be dependent on government, doctors and health care for their wellness.
My husband and I pretty well discuss everything.
I feel like society should be more willing to talk about the fact that whether we like it or not, the children that we’re raising today are our future.
Integrity, accountability, hubris, materialism and constant labelling that creates division in society. For example, the increase in obesity and inability to differentiate between needs and wants in increasing public debt loads.
What we really want out of life.
Inequalities in the world.
What it means to move off the farm and down the road a bit…we’re doing this at the age of 77 and 79.
Openly talk to children about sex and their bodies, and how their health problems are sometimes due to their eating and drinking habits. As a grandmother, it can be quite delicate talking of sex matters to teenagers.

Personal finances.
Everyone getting a fair share – how do you make that happen for your kids?
Drug use.

Dissatisfaction in my current job.
I think parents should discuss more money, budgeting and financial things with their kids.
 Feelings. Real feelings. Not what we think others want to hear. It’s hard to be assertive about this and not have it backfire.
 As a community, we should talk more about alcoholism.
I wish we’d talk more about the silliness of trying to fit in, and really, how stupid it is. We were made different for a damn good reason, and we should pay attention to that.

Never feeling good enough, or adequate.

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