Unlearning What They Done Learned Me in School

One of my (many) leftover hangups from grade school is a terror of red ink. Something about those pencils they used to give us. A shuffle of papers later, and you’re grading somebody else’s work and hoping against hope that you don’t have to flunk anyone, and that you didn’t do anything too humiliating, yourself.

So, I don’t edit in red ink. I’ve actually heard that teachers have taken up correcting papers in non-red colors, because it’s less traumatic. (No, sweetie. They’re not traumatized by red ink, itself. They’re traumatized by you.)

I also write in pencil or colored ink or… ya’know… my own blood… because I’ve been trained to take those things a lot less seriously than blue or black ink. Blue or black ink is the domain of very, very carefully re-copying your work so that it will be perfect when you turn it in.

I spent so much time doing this (because I never got to perfect) that one day in Junior High someone told me to make copies, and I sat down and copied the paper–by hand–five or six times so everyone could have a copy.

The response was horror. I meant… make copies in the office. On the Copying Machine.

That thought certainly never occurred to me.

To this day, I pick up a pen, and that same old perfectionism kicks in. Hello, inner editor.

The list goes on. Yellow or pink legal pads. Something with color to it. Blue. Green. Whatever. Never proper loose leaf paper. Still has to be college ruled, though, because the wide ruled reminds me of remedial classes, and makes me doubt myself. (No, really. It’s very simple. The less space between the lines on your paper, the smarter you are. That’s the rule, and it’s in my head.)

Lets just call them “quirks.”

What about you? Any school-based peccadilloes?

Field Trips to Nowhere

When I was a kid, school field trips were a matter of piling into cars driven by “class mothers” and going… somewhere… There were usually about eighteen kids in my class, and yes, that includes the year that was 5th and 6th grade combined. (Well, we only had three 6th graders!) The thing about “class mothers” is that they were actually, well, you know… mothers. And they had known us… most of us… since preschool, and longer, if you happened to be related, or went to the same church.

We had really good field trips, back then. You could go anywhere that was vaguely educational, and reachable in an eight to ten hour day.

Military cemetery. Historical Society. Museum someplace down the interstate. Up the side of a really big hill out in the middle of nowhere. You weren’t going with a stranger. You were going with someone your parents know well enough to know that if you don’t come back,  they had a darn good reason.

It was good for discipline.

Case in point… That time we had to stop on the side of the interstate to tell the new kid he’d better buckle his seat belt right now. Because the class mother knew my parents, and she knew (redacted and redacted)’s parents and our parents would let her take their kids to (really fun, life-altering activity) some other time. She didn’t know new kid’s parents.

Seat belt buckled, followed by complete silence, and even strikingly good posture.

The School Year is Coming…

And that means school supply lists and last minute shopping sprees.

I don’t even have kids, and I know that much. The terror of last year’s school supply lists is still fresh in my mind, and later on, I’m going spelunking to see if I can track down an old scientific calculator to loan a friend’s kid. I’m not sure it will be worth the trip. There’s a very specific model number they’re supposed to have, and I’m probably a model or two behind.

Not that math has changed all that much.

Last year’s list added up to a couple hundred dollars in things like a couple dozen red pens, crayons, pencils, and Kleenex, and included the admonition not to write the child’s name on anything, because… delicately worded, of course… we will share the supplies in the classroom hoard.

In other words, don’t get attached, ’cause you ain’t getting them back.

This year’s requests include the very same items the kids bought last year–many of which would still be perfectly good–and significantly angrier parents.

So, thoughts…

1.) The up front expenditure is memorable, and for a lot of families, a real blow to the budget. (Remember, this is one list for one child. Many families have more than one.) It’s ridiculous to have families buying an entire year of notebooks (or anything else) all at once, when the expense could be budgeted through the year.

2.) I’m a writer. I use a lot of red ink. I will not be exhausting twenty-four red pens this year. A ten-year-old certainly won’t. This massive over-supplying is a waste, and irritates the people paying for them.

3.) Not having personal supplies eliminates personal responsibility for those supplies, and also makes them a recurring, ridiculous expenditure.

4.) Not having personal supplies means the actual expense is double, because the children will still need the same supplies for homework. Children whose families don’t have money for this will be disadvantaged by the very system that was (presumably) intended to help them.

5.) It’s a lot easier to tell a parent “Billy” is out of red pens than to tell him that “the class” is out of red pens. (Particularly if they still remember spending money and buying twenty-four of them.)

6.) Teachers will not be able to figure out why they wind up buying supplies “out of their own pocket” when they run out of something halfway through the year. (It’s because kids didn’t take care of class supplies, and parents aren’t going to replace them.)