Motherly Words of Advice Embrace School: It's a Life Lesson

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Walking into the room just now, I found you asleep on the couch, television on. You haven't yet adjusted to the regimented, sometimes grueling schedule that fall brings.

Just a few days ago you were bemoaning the end of your freedom; already your summer freckles are fading. One of your thongs, or flip-flops as you call them, has fallen off your foot and lies at the foot of the couch, final testament to warmer weather. And just last week we went to three stores to find the lunch box you wanted.

You've undoubtedly sat through exhortations from several of your teachers about what they require from you in the coming year. I'd like to add my expectations. Humor me, even if you are sleeping. Maybe I can break through to you in one of your dreams.

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I don't want to hear that you've been fresh or disrespectful to a teacher. I won't recite the trite argument that you have to respect teachers just because they're teachers. Do it because a teacher is, purely and simply, a human being.

Don't ever let me get a call from a teacher about your behavior. I'm not saying I'll find you guilty until you're proven innocent, but I won't automatically take your side, either. If a teacher has taken the time to call me, it's important. If your teacher calls, I hope it's to introduce himself, like Mr. Nardone did when I was out of town for parents' night. Or I hope it's to tell me something good about you, or how she can help you.

There will be some teachers you'll love, and others you'll say you don't like. You may even run across a few who seem like military generals. Take pleasure in those teachers you're fond of. It's such a gift to have a teacher like this. You'll remember these people your whole life, and may even make one or two of them your heroes.

You can't enjoy a special relationship with everyone, however, and you will run into people you won't have good memories of. Teachers, too. That's just the way it is.

Neither will you like everything that happens in school. And those are the breaks, too, I'm afraid. I'm not going to offer excuses for unfair rules, or the stupidity of red tape. You can rise above, I'm sure.

You'll be bored sometimes. No teacher can entertain you every minute of every day. Not every subject will interest you. You have to "try them on." You don't know what you'll need later in life. I hope you can get the most out of your learning experiences. Learn grammar and spelling, as tedious as they might be, so you can express yourself well. Just take my word for it, these matter.

Don't be influenced by how some of your classmates act. You've been raised to act a certain way. Don't ever take part in sabotaging a teacher. Be a leader, OK? Don't be afraid to speak to a kid who's doing something wrong. Make believe you're the one in front of that classroom and act the way you'd like people to treat you.

I'm not asking you to be an angel, only to do what you know is right and act the way we've tried to raise you. And I'm not telling you all this because I'm especially worried about how you'll act. I just want to reinforce these things in my own mind. I'd like you to be even better in school than you are at home.

I don't know how much of what I'm saying would sink in even if you were awake. And I know I'm preaching. But it's important. I used to be a teacher, and I remember.

* Patricia R. Olsen, a mother, is a freelance writer in Tinton Falls, N.J.

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