ClamHouse Rocks! A Back To School Primer

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YOU CAN TELL IT’S THE END OF SUMMER because since July 4th the CVS and Walgreens have been pushing their Halloween goods, teachers have been quitting their side jobs, and seasonal workers have been trying to figure out how to correctly collect unemployment until April.

That means it’s back to school time in the city, that magical time of year where students who are done harvesting on the family farm return to the schoolhouse equipped with new chalk and writing boards, eager to complete the three Rs.

Teachers are relieved to get a steady paycheck once again, and parents are excited to have something to busy their kids with for six-to-eight hours aside from Camp, the beach, wandering the town’s streets and parks, the beach, a neighbor’s pool, summer job, hanging out with cell phone in the house, the beach, protesting outside Market Basket, the river, or the beach.

Lesson: to every thing there is a season, and purpose, except in summer. During summer we’re just waiting until the kids can be busy again. Countdown to Columbus Day: six weeks.

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YOUR, YOU’RE, YORE & THEY’RE, THEIR, THERE – Gone are the lazy, hazy, crazy, Swayze days of summer – it’s now officially sweatshirt weather at nights, and probably a strange heat wave for the first few days of school. If you have kids ages zero to seven, this might mean you still stop by the beach after school or the weekend. Otherwise, the rest of us  are now slaves to anything school-related and weekends full of non-stop sports games and birthday parties at the bowling alley. Always the bowling alley, always.

In the adult world we operate on the notion that life is fifty-two weeks at a time, and you’re always working unless you take a vacation (who does that?). In school we think of life a grade at a time, or a semester or quarter at a time. Learning is somehow confined to 180 days, six and a half hours each, only from September to June. Fight the power! Learn alongside your kids if you can – have them teach you what they learned that day. Have them show you some new way of learning math or remembering history facts. Before long (you have until they’re like fourteen, right? Maybe twelve?), your children won’t want to tell you anything, so enjoy them while they’re young enough to talk about their day. You can always follow your kids’ lives on Twitter or Instagram because Facebook is now only for old people, and by old people we’re talking like the 24-64 demographic).

Lesson: Trick yourself into learning things by tricking your kids into doing homework with them. Doubleplusgood! Countdown to Thanksgiving: twelve weeks.

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Y=MX + B – It’s important to remember that you (and your children) have and will forget most of what you learn in school. Adults have forgotten about 70% of what they learned since three years old, even counting college and grad school and the years of television shows and movies they’ve consumed. And if they were paying attention? Still 70%. That’s right – educated humans will forget most of what they learn in 14+ years of school (that’s counting pre-school). Adult humans always forget how to be kind and not beat each other up, and rarely know how to share, and those were some of the basics.

Lesson: I totally forget. I knew it at one point, but maybe I have it written down somewhere in a notebook in the attic? Countdown to Christmas Break: sixteen weeks.

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FAILURE IS AN OPTION – That’s right. Any teacher, coach, or principal who says otherwise is totally wrong. Whether you’re a teacher, parent, student, or all three, don’t be afraid to fail. Fail big, fail often, but only after you’ve tried your bestest and then learned something. If you fail as a parent, you have time to make it right, even if your kids are grown. If you’ve failed as a student, there is always a chance or teacher or test you can do to regain your place in the world (or another road to travel to get to where you want to be). If you’ve failed as a teacher, start over. September is a good time for this.

Lesson: Life is very long, so you’ve got time to become the person you’ve always wanted to be, whether you’re a freshman in high school or a rookie parent. Countdown to February Break: twenty-four weeks.

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THE GOOD WILL HUNTING ANOMALY – Only 20% of you are going to run the world. Well, probably like 1% of 20% of 20% of you. That means the rest of us get to party and protest and out-learn each other, which is what we call society. HOWEVER there is this place that has ALL the knowledge in the world (aside from the library): this place of magic and wonder is called the Google.

On the Google you can literally learn everything ever taught or learned in the history of ever. From Plato to plate tectonics, from embryos to empires, it’s all there. ‘Ol good Will Hunting from Cambridge once said something like, “you could get a $100K education from a $1.50 in late fees to the library,” and he was right except that most people don’t read and most people don’t even know where the library is. But you – yes, you! have the entire knowledge of the world in your pocket! It’s that rectangle thing with the broken face that you just can’t seem to fix. Install the Wikipedia or TED Talks or NPR app and learn something new every day. In fact, you could spend a whole year just learning from the Google and you would probably know more than most people on the planet right now.

Lesson: Use technology to supplement your learning, not just for pixelated adventures and Twitter. Countdown to Spring Break: thirty-three weeks.

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TIME IS RELATIVE – If you are living in Massachusetts, and reading this, and own a computer, and have finished at least eighth grade, and you and your children are relatively healthy, then, in the year 2014, you’re doing better than 98% of the world over all of time and memorial. Really. You’re better off than every empire and state that ever existed. That’s how awful the world is and history has been for regular people. And just think, Massachusetts is the best place in America (and most of the world) for education. THE BEST. AND Gloucester schools are amazing, as are their teachers and students. So there are no limits for any of us – those returning to school, taking time off of it, avoiding it, or starting it up for the first time.

Lesson: We’re too advantaged to waste one day. Well, maybe one. Well, maybe we can waste a few days, but only a few. Countdown to Memorial Day: thirty-eight weeks; Countdown to Graduation: forty weeks or so; Countdown to next year’s Back to School Special Primer: fifty-one weeks.

See you at the bowling alley.

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