If only I could do it again, it’d be much different from the first time. The first time I was drowsy from the early morning hour until recess when I perked up and then drowsy throughout the afternoon from lunch, and then I went home. This went on for eight years.
Grade school. Those formative years that somehow formed me in spite of myself. I could say the same for high school and college but for different reasons.
If I returned now? Now, I’d awake sharpened with my No. 2 pencil and iPad in tow, only without the backpack. (I refuse to carry a backpack, too heavy at my age.) I’d have my homework completed and double spaced. I’d wear a nice suit and tie. I’d have a healthy lunch prepared. I’d sit in front. I would not gossip about the class “geek” or the hero-quarterback. I’d be silent waiting to absorb what the teacher carefully prepared for me that day. I wouldn’t mind sitting in a small, cramp desk with no ink well but I’ll be able to fit underneath it in case of a nuclear attack. (How was a desk supposed to be protect me from a nuclear attack?!)
Would this all be an act to impress her? No, that was the first time around, this time I’m serious about this education stuff. My grade school nuns had me pegged as an “empty vessel” waiting to be filled even though my spout was not very open. (see “drowsy” above.) This second time my vessel is already filled, sometimes overflowing, and I want to make sense of it all.
Is education wasted on the youth? I guess it is, in spite of what might sift through to get them going in life but my second time around would be challenging, cleansing and assimilating to my 62 years.
Now, when I raise my hand it is no longer to go to the bathroom to kill time but to ask a haunting question looking for life clues. I no longer need to impress the teacher, I need her to impress upon me how education integrates facts and knowledge into a synthesis that can refill and refine this aging vessel.
Yes, I would bring an apple to school only to nourish and not make her think better of me than the rest. I want her to survive another day to smooth out my rough edges of how history can be distorted and misused, how the U.S. empire is different from Rome’s (perhaps a leap for grade school education, but it’s worth a try!), what is important in life and what needs to be labeled relative.
After school, I’d dutifully go home (my own house since my parents are heavenly) and lay out the day’s assignments that need my attention. I would delight in this second time challenge and I would luxuriate in the task before me that calls for critical thinking and discernment.
The following day (different suit, of course) I’d proudly present my carefully prepared analysis to my grade school teacher who would softly but firmly tear it apart piece by piece. The first time around I would have walked home wounded scared to show my parents. This second time around I would return home and eagerly start it all over again.