Welcome back to school. Welcome happiness?

Welcome back to school

Welcome back to school

Welcome back to school

 

As a parent, these words echo memories of fun, enjoyment and learning. As a kid and adult who can never get enough learning, school was fun. Every question that I ever could possibly think of could be answered at school. See I was the kid who stayed up thinking abstract ideas that I knew nobody ever thought of before. Some were of the social nature:  Why are people angry all the time, why is violence ending, why are people mean to others, why do they place money before people? Some were of the scientific nature: Why is the sky blue, the grass green, what is a cell, what is an atom, what are these neat colors always flashing in my eyes? Some were of the mathematic nature: Why is 2 +2 =4, what is the biggest number, what math is new and what math is old, is there math people no longer use?

But I know I was an odd one…yet, I spent years hating school. Why?  When I think back, school was an escape from all of the violence in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, because the same kids who were in my neighborhood were in my school, they brought the violence and the negativity to school with them. However, I didn’t have to deal with it unabated like I did on the street right in front of my house where gangs would often patrol.  The gang members and bullies still had to live under the laws and watchful eyes of the teachers, principals and their cameras. In addition to that, it got me out of the violence at home. I lived in a very poor neighborhood and my mom decided to hang onto an abusive man. When he went to work, home was ok…and school wasn’t an escape. But who knew when he’d be home. School and school work was an excuse not to be there in the middle of their fights as well. When asked why the music was so “god damn fuckin loud” I could simply say it was helping me study. They would mutter something about “teenagers these days” and I was no longer a captive audience to the daily yelling and screaming and breaking.

So why did I hate school?  Perspective.wpid-CAM01230.jpg

In 5th grade my teacher taught a unit on the American Revolution. He dressed up a few days as a few of the major generals and major players of the period. There were days we had to eat and drink the stuff kids our age were eating and drinking during the 1700’s. We came in one day and he asked us to take off our shoes. The middle of the class was draped in sheets. We walked into these sheets onto layers and layers of ice all over the floor and a small tiny heater, a heater that would raise the body temperature of a mouse. All to depict the ways that the valley forge volunteers lived. We had muskets, musket balls, we came up with ways to attack the enemy and steal the food that was needed to survive.

In 6th grade, we won a essay contest to go and be a part of the Jet Propulsion Lab experiments. We worked on what would one day become the Mars rover, helped build heat panels for the space shuttle, and took part in the intramural JPL elementary school engineering contests. It was a simple concept; invite all the top math and science high schools and students to JPL (a place where many would one day work anyway) and then put out a essay contest so some poor kids could go. They saw it as a way to give us a glance at what we could accomplish if we really put our mind to it, and also incurred millions of dollars of student loans. The funny part was that the kids from my class that went were thugs, origami nerds, and closet computer geeks. The contests were ammunition trajectory, paper airplane races, and computer science.  We swept the contests.

In 7th grade, we scoured the Channel Islands in search of ancient shark teeth, bones, plants, and any other kinds of very old stuff we could find. We spent five hours is the blistering sun to understand paleontology, the thrill of the discovery, and the work it all really was. We stood at the top of the tallest mountain and declared we had discovered the hidden treasures of the Channel Islands.

wpid-CAM01160.jpgIn high school we made volcanoes. We made pyramids, and found out just how hard it truly was. We created ancient civilizations, and became historians. I wrote a famous play for a “say no to drugs” rally, and I performed a magnificent play to thunderous applause.  I went to France, I created wondrous photos, pictures, stories, and art.

A few days ago…about 10…I saw an echo from the past (a old high school acquaintance. Now, let me clarify here. I graduated high school, left the state, and never looked back. ) asking me to be friends on face book. I smiled and nonchalantly accepted. There in front of me was my 20 year high school reunion. I scrolled through the hundreds of pictures of people who all look older than me. I picked them to pieces. I judged. I laughed. I reveled in not being there……all the obvious wrong things to do.  Yet, there I was again…in the same rut and dredge I was in when I was in high school. The exacting judge of the people, the experiences, and the life that surrounded them.  The knit picking pessimist who saw that they were the problem who was holding me back.  I saw the same faces who I had decided was the reason that this person didn’t date me, or the reason that I was forced to drop out of the baseball team.  I saw these happy wine drinking 30+ men and women and scoffed at their frivolity of such a pathetic need to resurrect the past because the current reality wasn’t good enough or didn’t live up to their dream.

Why did I hate school despite the obvious awesomeness? (BTW – I have left out a HUGE amount of neat experiences and stuff I got to do in the name of “school”. Running with Elephants is one….to just name one as an example) For the same reason I had this conversation with my going into 4th grade son:

Me: Looking forward to going to school?

Son: No. Not at all.

Me: Why not?

Son: {sigh} Because I’m not. It’s school.

Me: Wow, you’re so convinced that school is bad that you lityeraly spit the last word out.

Son: Yep.

Me: What’s so bad about school.

Son: It’s school.

Now my son has High functioning autism and the thought of going back into what he sees as a cage (the class room) and not knowing if the teacher will “get” him, and wondering how many bullies he’ll have this year equals a very unhappy person when school comes around. I can’t blame him really.

Suddenly, before I could catch myself…I went right into Inspirational Speaker mode. (Coincidentally, my daughters arrived at his door at this moment)

wpid-CAM01032.jpgWhat? Not interested in school?  You’re right! School is boring. They have weird rules. Not only is schools 6 hours of classrooms and dictatorship, it’s 2 hours of forced work at home. You’re forced to remember and know everything that is being said, and GOD forbid you accidently drift off. You’re expected to stay in your seat, stand in your square, sit on your number, and learn your team name as well as all the rules/schedules/procedures/names/directions of the classroom this year. But wait! Wait wait wait one little tiny smidgen of a second.

                We won’t talk about all the great things that you really want to do that needs education. We won’t say anything about the earning value of a person who has gone to school and one who has not. I won’t mention the fact that every person who didn’t do anything in their school has regretted it every day of their life, even if they turn their entire life around. In fact, Bill Gates…the great creator of Windows and Microsoft, the great thinker and philanthropist…still holds onto the piece of paper that says he is kicked out and disenrolled in college…because it’s still a sting. I won’t talk about the huge amount of opportunities that you are passing by by not going to school. I’m not going to talk about or list the hundreds of amazing people you will meet.

                But your problem my friend has nothing to do with not learning or not understanding…no, on the contrary, your problem with school lays in your eyes. Not the pretty parts people see as you bat your lashes, and not the pupil that the doctor decides to mess with while he flashes a flash light in your eyes. No sir! This lies behind your eyes. A secret. A secret so small, so tiny, so miniscule, so absurdly simple that sitting there behind your eyes…it’s never seen. I will tell you what that amazing secret says right now! 

The world is what you see it as.

My fine young people, this world is exactly what it is when you open your eyes. See, your perception of a situation, idea, or moment is classified by what you’ve been taught, what your mind decides and reads, as well as what has been said.  When something that is commonly accepted as “bad” happens, we react in the way we have been taught to react and how we see others react. This is done contrary-wise when the opposite is done. Try looking at this world with new eyes. Try looking at this world of school through the eyes of a someone who never gets to see a school or students. My friends, look at school through the perspective of a 102 year old man dying from cancer WHO ONLY wishes to get back and live those days again. Everything, I mean EVERYtHING, is based on your perception of the situation.

                When you wake up…you open your eyes. What is in front of your eyes is the truth. Then opinion, culture, society, and teachings cloud into it and make it look like something else. You’ve seen this happen before….You’re looking at a cloud and you see a dragon. Then someone pops up and says that the cloud you’re looking at looks like a unicorn. Quick as that…that cloud begins to look like a unicorn. Here’s another example, you’re driving around and you always see the Fed EX sign. It’s the Fed Ex sign and that’s just what it is. Then suddenly, someone tells you that Fed EX put an arrow in their sign. What!? Now, no matter what. No matter how hard you try; you will always see that Arrow. It’s like a big red sore thumb that is swollen up 8 times bigger than it should starring at you all the time.  This is what the world looks like with all the teachings, ideas, media poison, culture, societal do’s and don’ts, and familial creations. Suddenly, you see the world in a very opaque odd way. In fact, you are now seeing the world through a kaleidoscope of perspectives. The scariest part is that…it begins to look normal! Then it does look normal…AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!

                So stop! See the happiness! What happiness you ask?  It’s all around us, but we’ve been taught not to see it. See the beauty of a butterfly, and the brilliance of a great catch when you drop something. Celebrate the great teachers, the awesome friends, and the wonderful experiences that will happen nowhere else but school. Enjoy the moments of the first day with the “get to know you” games, celebrate the 100th day as it comes and goes, and all fo the other greatness and fuzziness in between. Life is and was made to be fun and happy!  Life is a collection of 24 hours of living a day, for as many years as you live it. It’s the singing in the rain, great romances, wonderful concerts, exciting school floats, great teams and group work, but it’s also the bills the cleaning, the studying, the homework, and the smiles that carry us through the whole day. It’s not waiting for the next great moment, it’s findi9ng great moments in every minute and second there is.

The reason so many of us don’t enjoy life is because we aren’t looking for the joy in it!

 

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Chad Herman on the radio…THE SHOW | Motivating For Positive Change

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