I like to think of myself as a kid who liked school. It’s likely that I prefer the trappings that come with being the sort of kid who liked school: I like the assumptions that I carried a backpack laden with books and that I used my calculator for good reasons, like math, instead of for writing “boobs” with numerals.
For my part, I genuinely do recall having enjoyed school.
When I think about those years, I remember positive things, like report cards that earned me good will and dinners out with my folks and ice cream passes surrendered by sheepish boys. I can recall the names of all of my teachers and still can see their faces in my mind when I do. I cannot, on the other hand, name a single principal from any school I attended, a sure sign I wasn’t committing a lot of school-related infractions — or that I was at least smart enough to get off campus when doing so.
Mainly I just remember school being a pretty good way to fill the eight hours a day my mother wasn’t allowing me to watch daytime dramas.
I had a mostly placid run through elementary, middle and high school and then eagerly went on to college where I, like any kid who thinks they like school, chose a major for which I wasn’t smart enough and then got a minor in nervous breakdown. I muscled through, however, and the moment I grasped my diploma, which no member of my family witnessed because kids who like school are simply expected to graduate without fuss and fanfare, I figured it wouldn’t be the last one I would get. To date, it has been, but there’s always been a quiet murmur in my ear about going back to school. Because that’s what people who like school do.
You can imagine my surprise when one of my children loudly proclaimed, “I hate school.” I tried to create a diversion the first time I heard it, an attempt to minimize how many other people would hear the words, much like I do when they tell the dental hygienist they don’t really brush their teeth. How could this kind of chink develop in the helix of school-liking DNA I had passed to my progeny? I tried to ignore it, dismissing it with waves of the hand the way a mother would protests over eating broccoli. The dissent grew stronger and louder and took the form of stomping into school, shouting, “This is like walking into a prison for the rest of my life!” That’s a tough one for a mother to overcome with grace in front of a parking lot of stricken onlookers, especially when that mother is wearing sweatpants with a panty liner stuck to the leg.
I interceded quickly with a parent-teacher conference followed by pow-wows with other administrators interested in joining my posse. I read books about instilling confidence, inspiring leadership and feeling confident. I read articles about different modalities of learning, including home-schooling, which confirmed that traditional schooling, if not overseas boarding, was the only pathway of reason. When I wasn’t reading, I was imploring a child to give school a fighting chance. The arc of my own pleading rationales followed a descent from well-formed and reasonable thoughts to shrieks about homelessness and huffing.
Now that we’re headed into the eighth week of the new year, finally settling into a calm resignation when it comes to the daily grind of fall, I feel I’ve become a poster parent for the ill-equipped academic, a thought leader who can transform your school-hater into a school-lover, or at least a school-fine-I’ll-go-today-but-never-again-er. Here are some of my stronger arguments for why a child needs to go to school:
— Getting straight A’s in ordering lattes and the best of YouTube isn’t going to get you far.
— Kids who go to school infrequently become adults who go to church too frequently.
— I plan to retire in a two-bedroom condo in the Keys, and that extra bedroom goes to the one of you who becomes an orthopedic surgeon.
— I only give M&Ms to the child who can count out 30.
— You know how you always wonder if Santa visits poor children? He definitely doesn’t visit stupid children.
— I’m dropping you out of karate because I sincerely believe bad things become of a boy who spends more time in a dojo than in school.
— Mothers never play favorites, but we do prefer the ones who like our music and our cooking and our jokes and our hugs and who go to school.
— What does that hitchhiker’s sign say? It says, “Kindergarten Dropout.”
— If you don’t go to school, you can’t go to prom. And if you don’t go to prom, you can’t possibly make jokes about high school for the rest of your life.
— Good luck getting a second date when you need to ask the waiter to count the dollars out of your hand.
— If you never eat cafeteria food, you’re doomed to top out at 5-foot-2 on this organic diet I have you on.
— I already paid for a domain name to host your online resume. Now I have to redirect it to PleaseMoveMeOutOfMyMomsBasement.com.