School has been back in session for a few weeks. It’s funny how our early school experiences color our sense of time and seasons for the rest of our lives. Reminiscing about those old school days is a great way to bridge the generations and start some fun conversations with your family. You can even work on these questions while you’re driving the family taxi cab to school, lessons, and sports practices. In fact, that’s a great time to have some meaningful conversations and build your family legacy.
Let’s do a round-up across generations and I’ll give you some examples to get your thoughts going.
First, start with your parents’ or grandparents’ school memories. Start by asking these questions and get your kids involved in the process.
One of your earliest memories about school
Being teased at the bus stop, early encounters with loyal friends and merciless bullies
The imaginative, kind English teacher who made those classics come alive with dramatic readings. She pushed us because she knew we could do it.
Quirky teacher or friend from school
The junior high teacher who took on the crazy experience of coaching 29 7th graders in reenacting the kidnapping of Helen of Troy. How great it was to learn how to sword fight like the Greeks and Trojans and how to fake a really dramatic death scene. We loved it!
Favorite or most dreaded school subject or grade in school
Geometry. Proofs. Need I say more?
Field trips, recess, lunchtime memories
Hanging from the monkey bars, rolling inside tractor tires, kickball, trading lunches with your best friend. Spam? Deviled Ham? Tortillas and beans? School cafeteria Spanish rice—yum! I’m not kidding, are you going to eat that? Snorting milk out your nose after your friends cracked a joke. Bet that made you laugh again right now.
Travel to or from school
Did you walk, ride a horse? Take a long bus ride? Was it uphill both ways in the snow? You know the drill, but dig a little, especially for the unique, memorable, that “one time I’ll never forget…”
Some folks didn’t have a typical school experience. Here’s an account from Verena Andregg Mahaney, who grew up on a ranch on what is today White Sands:
(Homes on the Range: Oral Recollections of Early Ranch Life on the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, edited by Peter I. Eidenbach and Beth Morgan, pg. 90):
My Uncle Frank would go to town for supplies. He would go to our teachers at Alameda school in Las Cruces, and he would get work for us to do—homework and books and stuff. Mom would kindly teach us, and then he’d take all this back, you know, when he’d go back for supplies again. He’d take it in to the school and get more work and have ‘em to grade it, and we got report cards like everybody else….
Sports, music, drama memories
Doesn’t matter whether you were a star, a dud, an ever faithful participant or tried to avoid these experiences. Talk about it, what stands out? Can you call up the incredible brain numbing stinging of getting hit in the nose with a basketball? If not, you were a better catch than I was.
What kind of student were you?
How has this played out in the rest of your life? Do you like to learn? Are you still the “class clown?”
What is the most important thing you learned during school?
Think about Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
This from my daughter Alexis: Having the mindset that even if something doesn’t come naturally , whether a subject or a sport, whatever it is, you can still work hard and do a good job.
Second, answer these same questions for yourself. Note the differences and common things across the years.
Describe your best friend from school
If you could go back to any school year which one would you choose and why?
Have you ever gone back to visit and thank a teacher?
Third, ask your kids or another young relative this same set of questions. Then add a few more into the mix:
What do you dream about being/doing when you grow up?
If you could invent anything what would it be?
What do you like most about school?