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.

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