Originally created 08/20/00

First grade marks start of long trip

Performance is your reality. Forget everything else.

- Harold Geneen

My parents have a fading reel of film taken more than 40 years ago with a home movie camera.

It shows a big man with dark hair looking into the morning sun.

Beside him stands a boy - a smaller version of the adult - clutching a brown Roy Rogers book satchel.

The man is going to work.

The boy is going to first grade.

It will be the first day in a trip that will take 12 years - 16, counting college - and end in a generation completely different from the one in which it began.

The boy is me.

I've seen this image many times, and I can't help but want to tell the little fellow in that grainy, silent film what lies ahead. Not that it would do any good.

Last week, my own son began first grade.

We went outside. He stood beside me. We took a picture.

I've tried to tell him about school and what to expect in the years to come.

He nods his head. He seems to listen, but I'm not really sure.

Besides, as my own father told me years ago, there are just some things we have to learn ourselves.

Basic things. Common things. Things about school.

Things such as:

DON'T MAKE EXCUSES: Teachers have heard them all. Do your work. Do it on time.

MAKE FRIENDS: Build coalitions; include others. A bully confronted almost always will back down. For the times he doesn't, a friend will prove helpful.

BATHROOM BREAKS: Learn to go before you leave for school. Learn to hold it until you get home. Trust me.

GIRLS: You have no idea .ƒ.ƒ.

LUNCH: Don't complain; just eat it. Sure, it might be bad, but think about tomorrow. They almost never serve the same thing two days in a row.

FUND-RAISERS: You have my permission to ignore efforts to compel you to sell fruitcakes, gift-wrap and magazine subscriptions. That's not what you're there for.

KNOW YOUR TEACHER: Find out what she wants, and give it to her. It will be good practice. Think of her as the boss you'll have one day.

BE NICE: Always look for a way to include the kid nobody talks to - the one who might be a little slower than the others. It's the right thing to do, and, you'll discover, every vote counts when they elect a class president.

PRACTICAL JOKES: It's never worth it. Well, almost never.

THINK FOR YOURSELF: Figure things out. You don't always have to ask.

RAISE YOUR HAND: Don't be afraid to volunteer the answer. If you're wrong, be a good sport and act like you'll get it right tomorrow. Teachers like to feel as if someone's paying attention. (Your mother and I expect you to know the answer, by the way.)

ADAPT: Change can be good. Change can be bad. But change is always inevitable. What you want to do with your education will evolve over the years. So will you. And no matter what you become, be a good person.

Here comes the bus.

Get on it.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 107, or bkirby@augustachronicle.com.


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