Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stuff I Never Learned in School*

Life is an education that never ends.  When I became an adult I learned never to take your friends for granted.  When I became a mother I learned that I couldn’t love another human being as much as I loved our children (apologies to my husband).  And when I was a child I learned not to eat brown stuff if I wasn’t absolutely positive that it was chocolate.

But there are some things that I didn’t learn, useful things I wish I’d learned early when I was in school, so that they would be part of my general knowledge today.  Things that I should have been taught but hadn’t when I had the chance; things that would have freed me up to learn more exciting things as an adult.  Here are six of them: 

You Will Use Math in Real Life.   All through school I heard the same thing: you will never use math in real life.  I hated math, and took the easiest math classes once I got to high school, just when things started getting hard.  Now, I’m not working out cosines and tangents at home for kicks, but it sure would have been helpful to have spent some more time calculating percentages at school so I wouldn’t spend so much of my adult life looking like a balloon head when figuring out a tip.  Plus I haven't been able to help my kids with their math homework since they were in second grade.

Typing.  Am I the only person in the free world who can’t type without looking at my own hands?  My eyeballs get a workout bouncing from keyboard to screen to fingers and back again.  How did I miss those classes that all my friends took, where they held words-per-minute competitions?  If I never edited anything I typed it owul dlook liek thils.  Every single sentence.  Worst typist ever.

What I Am Good At.  This is more a guidance department fail, but whatever.  I remember being given aptitude and personality tests in the guidance office one time in my junior year of high school.  I showed aptitude for careers like actor, dairy farmer, zipper tester, and traveling salesman.  Then I was set free in college, where it took me three years to come up with a major, and I’m still not sure I made the right choice.  I never got much feedback on real skills I was good at, like learning languages, writing, and internalizing emotions.  This would have saved me years of working out how to keep a cow in the backyard.

Teachers Are Real People.  I was intimidated by teachers in school because I believed all the hype that teachers were weirdos who hated children.  I simply couldn’t put it together that teachers are ordinary people with families and problems and were doing the best they could at their jobs.  I was the kid who hid in the produce department if I saw a teacher at the grocery store.  If I had been taught that teachers put their pants on backwards just like I did sometimes, I wouldn’t have acted so awkward around my kids’ teachers when they started school and been a normal mother who volunteered and brought in cupcakes for birthdays once in a while, for cripes’ sake.  On the other hand, maybe not.  That sounds like a lot of work.

Life Skills.  I was shockingly unprepared for what adult life is really like, and would have appreciated a heads up in school. I’m talking about real classes that teach these specific skills, like learning that you must earn the money you spend, and how to live within that dollar amount.  And learning in real-life situations how long it takes to travel to a destination, so people aren’t always waiting for your late ass to show up.  And learning how to hang a picture, change a tire, and that the air filters on your home heating/cooling system must be changed.  And realizing when your skill set has been maximized and the appropriate professional to call to finish the job.

Good Manners.  Like a real class on manners.  Because if a class on good manners had been mandatory, like spelling or math, then everyone would have been exposed to them, and this world might be a little nicer.


 *This post was originally slated for a previous writing prompt exercise over at Mama Kat’s, but since I was never taught time management in school, I missed the window for this particular post.  Thanks a lot, school.


  1. I keep threatening to write based on a Mama Kat prompt, but never get to it. I did take a workshop in time management, I can't use the never taught it excuse. Darn it!

    I like your list a lot. I'm amazed at how many things I learned in school I do use. Math is definitely one and typing. That one semester in junior high has been the skill that has earned me the most money in my career. That and a summer after college when I was unemployed and I spent about an hour a day working to build my speed.

    School counselors were so full of poo. I was told to major in anything that interested me because all that mattered is that I would have a degree, not what it is in. Tell that to science jobs or even business graduate school!

    1. Ha! I was told the same thing. "Doesn't matter what, as long as you have the degree."

      How I wish I had clear internal direction at that time. That, and the confidence in my most marketable skills.

  2. As one who took many a typing class (back in the dark ages before it was called things like "keyboarding" or "information technology"), I can attest to the truth of your list. All these years later, I still list it as one of my most useful and valuable skills. Math in real life? Um, trying to figure out how much flooring you need for a 9 x 9 room with a diagonal door (whose dumb idea was THAT?) or the amount of material you need to cover a window with something leaving a four-inch margin all around. Figures - hated geometry the most and it comes in handy the most often.

    I can also tell you truly that teachers do put pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else...and some days they are indeed backwards.

    1. Ha!

      Yeah, geometry is a big question mark for me. And if I have to measure anything, it is helpful to expect the ensuing project to be a disaster.

  3. I love your writing. This is just brilliant. :-)