What I Learned in School--Year by Year
I liked school--really!
I liked school in my own way. I really did. I made good grades but was not a great student. My I.Q. was one of the highest in my class (a friend killed the curve with an I.Q. of 156) and I should have been one of the teacher’s favorites, but I lacked interest and concentration. You see, I was inspired by Disney cartoon characters and Marvel super heroes, and I wanted to draw pictures. Elementary school interfered with my dream of drawing muscle men or cute little animals for a living. Like an athlete with a limited number of years in his legs, I felt I had to get busy before arthritis set in.
It certainly wasn’t the teachers’ fault I didn’t do better. I was a proud member of Saint John’s Catholic Grade School, and those nuns really knew their stuff. Their best efforts, however, weren’t sufficient to guide me toward the academic straight-and-narrow. My drawings continued to compete with scholastic achievement for my attention.
School wasn’t a complete waste, however. I did learn some things. In fact, to demonstrate that I didn’t fritter away my time, I wrote down what I learned in school. To make things simpler I broke it down, year by year, followed by a summary. Make your own list and compare your academic success with mine, okay? Here goes…
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Things I learned; Kindergarten through Grade Six
Kindergarten: 1.) No one could force me to drink milk if I didn’t want to. 2.) I learned from a tiny masher named Lillian that if little girls are intent on kissing boys, there’s nothing you can do. The combination of these two lessons taught me to never give in and to always give in.
First Grade: 1.) I learned to read and write. 2.) If you need to use the rest room, don’t raise your hand and wait to be acknowledged—go ahead and go. Teachers would rather ignore your transgression than face the alternative. It would seem first grade taught me the things in life I most needed to know.
Second Grade: I remember absolutely nothing about second grade. I’m pretty sure I went, but I seemingly learned nothing memorable.
Third Grade: 1.) It does nothing for your academic standing to climb onto shelves, wait for your teacher to walk by, and leap from the shelves to knock her to the ground. Trust me on this one—nuns DO NOT see the humor in this. 2.) You can’t fake being an altar boy in church—you need to know what to do. When a priest conducting mass expects you to do something, you better get it done. You want priests and nuns on your side, which makes sense when you think about it.
Fourth Grade: 1.) It isn’t a good idea to hide homework assignments in your desk and never complete them. The first day you’re home sick, everything in the desk comes home with your older brother. 2.) Completing all the assignments in the math book over the weekend and calling yourself finished for the year doesn’t work—the teachers have no intention of letting you just sit there. The message of these dual lessons was to do your homework, but not too quickly.
Fifth Grade: 1.) If you’re given a week to solve one hundred math problems at home, you shouldn’t try to complete them at recess the day the assignment is due. You’ll only get a few of them done—especially if the swings are available. 2.) If you’re upset about something, going home without telling anyone is only going to make things worse. The folks that invited you to attend school are convinced you should stay for the entire day, and they won’t believe you left to do math problems.
Sixth Grade: 1.) If you have a big friend for a protector, a lot of other problems go away. This was one of the most important lessons I learned. 2.) You can’t write off the school year shortly after New Year’s Day and devote your time to drawing cartoons, even if you are going to junior high next year. Bullies are intimidated by scary guys protecting smaller kids, especially when the protector is a little crazy.
With the completion of sixth grade I reached the end of my time in a Catholic grade school and the halfway point in my educational journey. You might assume things got easier for me, freed from the confines of the parochial school system. For example, I could wear jeans and tee-shirts to school.
It didn’t help.
School memories: the later years
Things I learned: Grade Seven through Grade Twelve
Seventh Grade: 1.) Seventh grade girls are a distraction in ways that sixth grade girls weren’t. 2.) You have to do a lot of push-ups in the corner if you forget your gym locker combination. If you’re going to spend your time staring at girls, write your locker combination on your hand.
Eighth Grade: 1.) Gorgeous 26 year-old teachers are not attracted to skinny, long-haired 14 year-old students, no matter how cool or charming we think we are. 2.) Shop teachers are not to be messed with—they have no sense of humor about anything. Accept teachers for what they are and do not develop crushes or view them as an audience for a comedy routine.
Ninth Grade: 1.) Ninth grade girls are infinitely more interesting than seventh and eighth grade girls. 2.) Yelling “Hey, Mom” from a third story window (Spanish class, I believe) to little old ladies walking down the street outside is frowned upon—especially if you do it every day. Yelling out the window was my inner geek manifesting itself and ninth grade girls were not impressed—no matter how fascinating I found them to be.
Tenth Grade: 1.) Chuckling at the art instructor’s efforts to draw hands is not something they find amusing. 2.) You have to do a lot of push-ups in the corner if you whistle at the girl’s gym teacher—even more than when you forgot your gym locker combination, three years earlier. Message to Mike: leave the teachers alone, once and for all.
Eleventh Grade: 1.) It doesn’t matter if you’re the best artist on the planet, you won’t get a good grade in an art class if you don’t finish a project. 2.) Teachers hate teen angst and won’t accept it as an excuse for boorish behavior or bad study habits. Art instructors won’t accept teen angst as a reason not to finish projects and they won’t give you a good grade based on potential.
Twelfth Grade: 1.) High school girls are always looking for someone smarter, stronger, or older. Subsequently, it’s okay to notice girls in the eleventh grade since seniors are usually unavailable. 2.) With three weeks left I realized I liked school and would miss it after I left. It took twelve years to get used to school, and when I did they made me leave.
With the completion of grades seven through twelve, it would appear I wasn’t only interested in drawing—I also liked girls. In this regard I was hardly unique, but this added preoccupation did little for my academic record. At least my grades were good enough to warrant a discount on my auto insurance.
One last indignity
It sounds as if I didn’t learn much in school, but they didn’t learn much about me, either. My high school graduation ceremony aptly demonstrated that I left as anonymously as I arrived. The principal pronounced my name “lick-teeg” instead of the correct “lick-tie.” At least he didn’t call me “necktie,” “lickstick,” “mickle lick-tickle,” "Michael H. Henry" (don't ask...), “Michelle” Lickteig or any other brilliant variation of my name endured throughout the years. Thank goodness for that.
When I returned home I unfurled my diploma and read it carefully. The parchment proclaimed I had graduated in good standing with all due rights, privileges and responsibilities, which seemed fair enough. By chance I eventually compared it to my older brother’s high school diploma and saw they were identical—with one exception: his conveyed all due rights, privileges and honors. With my diploma they replaced the word “honors” with “responsibilities”. Why was that, and why did I somehow feel cheated?
A final note: My whimsical look at school was not intended to denigrate the many fine instructors and institutions charged with advancing my education. It should be noted I attended college and earned a degree from the University of Kansas, replete with even more rights, privileges and honors (oops, I meant responsibilities).
School's Out performed by Alice Cooper
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