Tag Archives: High school

Where She’s From

Tomorrow, my eldest niece will graduate from high school. And in August, she’ll head off to college. Unlike her brothers who chose campuses closer to home, Miss Thang will be flying further away from the nest.

Today, I’m sharing one of the essays Audrey authored during her college application process. Because tomorrow, we’ll celebrate her: the person she is and the person she’s becoming. My niece knows who she is. Tenacious, kind, funny and smart: I’m excited for her to strap on her invisible wings and take them for a spin. Can’t wait to see where she lands.

SONY DSC

Photo by Florian Komorowski

Where I’m From by Audrey Jacobson

I am from ballet shoes and muddy sneakers.

From two older brothers, playing on the driveway.

I am from high expectations and never giving up. From surging on the canal path and running in circles.

From a box of Nike spikes, sweaty locker rooms, a blue and gold uniform and eleven varsity letters.

I am from “suicide sprints” and layup lines. From dropping balls and picking them up again.

From “Eat the hills for breakfast!” and “Keep your head up!”

I am from going out of my way, from hard work. From camaraderie, spirit, and supporting my teammates.

I am from ten summers at sleep-away camp. From fearlessly leaving home, a wee thing toting a humongous duffel bag.

I am from broadening my world, from making new friends, from unplugging from technology, and connecting with nature. From waterskiing and tetherball.

I am from giving back. In song and dance and conversation. I am from conflict resolution, positivity, and motivation. I am a hand, a shoulder, and an ear.

I am from bell-ringing on winter nights, from lugging boxes of books to children who have none, from making bracelets with broken souls.

I am from long nights of studying at my kitchen island. From Multiplication Fast Facts in 3rd grade to Logs and Limits. From Phospholipids and Buffers and Titrations.

I am from High Honor Roll. From parents with great genes. From brothers who showed me the way.

After seeing my name in the newspaper for academics and sports, people have told me, “You’re the whole package.”

Whatever that means, I’m not sure.

What I know is that I am from tutus and jazz shoes.

From getting dirty and meeting new people.

From the love of learning and the love of the game.

From playing hard and winning trophies, but not being afraid to lose.

I am from taking risks.

I know where I am from.

These are my roots.

What no one knows is that I have this box of wings that I’m ready to try.

tweet us @rasjacobson & @audjacobson

What’s essays do you remember being assigned to write? Where are you from?

NOTE: I helped Audrey back in October by providing her with the “Where I’m From” meme when she was in the throes of essay writing, but all the words are her own. Thanks to Jenny Hansen for sharing her piece and to Sharla Lovelace for inspiring Jenny. If you go HERE, you will see this exercise is based on a poem by George Ella Lyon called “Where I’m From,” and if you’d like to try it yourself, the original link is there.

Click HERE for details on how you can enter to win a $25 gift card. 

When Your Teacher Goes Off Topic: #LessonLearned by Dawn Sticklen

Click on the teacher lady's butt to see other posts in this series!

• • •

Dawn Sticklen writes a blog called Since You Asked… in which she explores… well… everything. This April she did the A-Z Challenge along with a lot of other bloggers who pushed themselves to post every day with a significant word or concept that corresponded with the assigned letter of the day. I don’t think Dawn has missed a single one. And they are at Y! (Why? Because we like you!)

Dawn started her blog to write about adoption and parenting, but these days she writes about everything under the sun — which is really refreshing because you never know what you might find at Dawn’s place.

Tweet with Dawn, and you’ll see she exudes a positivity which is infectious. But not like herpes!

Folks can Find Dawn on Facebook and follow her on Twitter at @JoMoBlogger.

• • •

Ode to Sweet Jimmy

Mr. Padgett was my high school math teacher. While “Sweet Jimmy” had a disposition that was anything but, he nonetheless managed to endear himself to his students. (Well, some of us.) With arms covered in tattoos commemorating his service in the navy, Mr. Padgett’s imposing presence intimidated the typical mild-mannered high school student. In his booming voice he frequently offered his opinion about matters such as the low rate of pay afforded teachers in our district: “I am the ONLY certified mathematician employed by Nassau County and yet I receive no extra compensation for my credentials. Thus, I am compelled to teach night classes at the community college,”; or the district’s refusal to participate in the one Federal holiday deemed worthy of recognition by the ex-fighter pilot: “Once again it is Veterans Day and Nassau County is the ONLY school district in the entire state of Florida that does not feel it is important to show honor to our war veterans by giving us the day off.” This last declaration was always followed by a vivid depiction of how, while serving in Viet Nam, Sweet Jimmy’s plane was shot down and he was in a total body cast for the remainder of the war (or something like that).

Dawn's "Sweet Jimmy"

Mr. Padgett had quaint little phrases that he wrote on the board each year to help us better understand the material he was covering. Statements such as, “Pi R Squared - Cornbread R Round,” helped us to remember basic formulas in geometry while, “O I C, I C Y, and I C 2,” reminded us that eventually the light will indeed come on during a lesson and we WILL understand the concepts presented to us (or else we would fail and end up in Mr. Roberts’ less challenging, albeit more practical, math class).

Mr. Padgett took time to teach us about the finer points in life, since Nassau County also refused to present solutions for the real issues teens in the 1980’s faced (you know, those unique dilemmas only those of us who graduated in 1984 dealt with – namely, sex, drugs, and rock and roll – but mostly sex). We never knew if a morning’s math lesson would also include a reality check about birth control (“You do, of course, realize that the pill must be taken more than just either before or after you have sex in order for it to work?”) or sexually transmitted diseases (“Herpes is forever; true love is not. Always use a condom.”)

One of the most memorable math lessons, though, was the day that Mr. Padgett instructed us to take our seats and prepare to pay close attention to a film he thought would prove enlightening to us. He proceeded to turn off the lights and cue the projector for a film hosted by none other than Ann Landers. For 50 minutes we listened as Ann interviewed couples infected with either herpes or gonorrhea. “What about…herpes?” became our class mantra as we tried to figure out what possessed those couples to agree to be interviewed on camera about such humiliating afflictions. (Remember, this was in the days before reality TV.)

Mr. Padgett taught us much more than just mathematics. He taught us about life, and somehow managed to teach me, personally, to respect myself enough to always put forth my best effort – no matter what the task before me.

Sadly, Sweet Jimmy died a few years after I graduated from high school. However, his legacy lives on not only as a great math teacher, but as one who helped prepare students for life in general. His impact on students’ lives has survived long after his own mortality – and how many teachers can say that?

What is the weirdest thing you ever learned in a class that had absolutely nothing to do with the course subject matter?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

Are There Alternatives to the College Experience?

Harvard

Image by Patricia Drury via Flickr

Over the last twenty years, societal attitudes have fostered an expectation that all students should go to college.

Currently, 71% of graduating high school students in the United States go directly from high school to college. And while financial aid has made college accessible for nearly everyone, not all students are ready for college (or the college experience).

Right now over 50% of incoming first-year students require some kind of remediation to help retroactively prepare them for college-level work.

So I am wondering: Are we putting too much emphasis on going to college? Is it possible that the pressure and increasing “requirement” that everyone go to college is an unjust expectation? Is it really necessary that everyone have a college degree? To get entry-level work? Or tradesman status? Because it seems like that’s where we are today. People are paying extraordinary amounts of money to attend college, only to find that upon graduation there are very few well-paying jobs.

Should everyone be expected go to college right out of high school? What else could kids who aren’t hard-wired to continue with formal education do rather than menial labor? Or do you believe that college is the only way to a better life?

Not To Be Trashed: Guest Post by Mary Mollica

That's my girl!

Today’s guest blogger is my old friend, Mary Mollica whom I have known since 1975 when we found each other in 2nd grade.  Mary and I have been in and out of each others lives for over 3 decades, but we really reconnected when we learned that we had both been blogging.

Mary’s professional blog, The Decorative Paintbrush, is a journey where she shows readers how she finds trash and turns it into treasure. (I was recently with her when she found a piece of crap leaning against a building and she circled back to get it, declaring with absolute certainty that she was going to turn it into something gorgeous. I am sure she has. I have seen what she can do.)

Mary’s personal blog is called 2moms5kids and that is a whole different kind of adventure, equally amazing. You can follow Mary on Twitter @thedpb

Today, Mary recalls our most excellent high school art teacher, Carl Wenzel whose work can be found HERE. She’s not lying about his quirky-awesomeness. Note: While I took numerous art classes, I had nowhere near the artistic potential that Mary did.  Some of us are artists and some of us are writers. And some of us are financial guys. 

• • • • •

 Not To Be Trashed

I remember the first time I stepped into his classroom. There was music playing, and the lights were off. Quel ambiance, right? I remember thinking this guy is either a total nut job or very cool. Turns out he was a bit of both, and I say that with total admiration. He’d probably admit that himself. Mr. Wenzel was, and still is, an amazing artist and, as an artist now myself, I’d have to admit, in order to be a good one, you have to be a bit of both!

Until ninth grade, I had taken art classes along with the rest of my peers. Pinch pots, papier maché, and abstract self-portraits cluttered my mother’s refrigerator. Like most young children I liked art – it was fun – but the first day I walked into Mr. Wenzel’s classroom, I knew things were going to be different. He ignited a passion for art inside of me like no other teacher had before.

Mr. Wenzel introduced me to techniques that enhanced my own creativity instead of trying to manipulate my work into a carbon copy of his own.  He gave praise as well as constructive criticism, which, at first, I’ll admit was not easy to take. But along with the criticism, he always gave a solution that helped fix the problem.

I remember once we were getting ready for the annual art show. We all had to do a piece in hopes that it might be submitted. At the time, Mr. Wenzel was trying to teach us about atmospheric perspective (reducing value contrasts, and neutralizing colors in objects as they recede) and, for whatever reason, I was struggling with this concept.

My frustration started to build.

I wanted to be in the art show so badly, to show people what I could do, to prove I was a good artist, but my piece was not cooperating with me. At all.  

I was irritated as I watched Mr. Wenzel walk around the room casually, giving kudos and words of praise to the other students. I wanted those accolades and looking at the junk in front of me, I knew I wasn’t going to get it. He finally stopped at my desk.

“So, what’s going on here?” He made a circle with his forefinger over my work.

“I don’t know…”(Yes, I was whining.) “I just can’t seem to get the hang of this.” I threw down my pencil in disgust. “I should just start over again.”

“Well you could start over…” he said sympathetically, “or you could try something else.” In one swift motion he grabbed a sheet of rice paper from a shallow drawer behind him, flipped the chair next to me around and snatched a big old jar of Elmer’s Glue.

He plopped down and started humming as he ripped the paper into large random pieces.

I watched him.

“Some of your biggest artistic mistakes will turn out to be some of your best creative work,” he said gluing down random slips of paper to the front of my project.

I had been trying to recreate a landscape from a picture I had cut from a magazine and although the background was wonderful, the fence in front was flat and unattractive. He slapped down the paper over the large fence posts, layering and molding them as he went, until finally they resembled old pieces of wood.

“A paper collé!” He exclaimed.

“A what?”

“A paper collé. A visual and tactile technique you can use to embellish certain areas.” He smiled and his mustache wiggled. “If you add color to these, they will stand out and make the background seem distant, like it should. Sort of 3D.”

I worked feverishly on that piece, falling in love with it more every day. My piece actually took first place in the art show that year and sold for a nice chunk of change. And to think — I had wanted to throw it in the trash.

Mr. Wenzel inspired me for many years after high school and helped me transform my hobby into a lifelong quest. His ability to arouse the imagination and motivate students was astounding. He taught us how to transform the mundane into the magnificent with very little effort. So, now when I screw up on a piece of art (or in life), I remain calm and remember Mr. Wenzel’s words.

This is the kind of stuff that Mary does now!

What are some school art projects that you remember loving? Or hating?

 • • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a memory about a teacher you had and can explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction, I’d love to hear from you! Contact Me. Essays should be around 700-800 words.

If you write for me, I’ll put your name on my page of favorite bloggers!

 

Damage Done: Guest Post by Leonore Rodrigues

Leonore Rodrigues

Today’s teacher story comes from guest blogger Leonore Rodrigues from As a Linguist. Leonore and I connected because of our love of language, weird words, and proper punctuation. As it turns out, we have quite a few real life things in common. 

Leonore’s a teacher and she just wrote a lovely piece called Intermission. It is exactly what I’ve been feeling recently, and she wrote it so beautifully. Please check it out after you read what she wrote here today. Also feel free to follow her on Twitter at @asalinguist. Thanks for helping me out, L.

• • •

Damage Done

I can remember the names of most of my teachers I’ve had from kindergarten until graduation from high school, which is something about me that freaks out my boyfriend just a little bit. I try to tell him that there is still plenty that I don’t remember about school, but then I go and spoil it by mentioning that I also remember most of my first-day outfits.

I don’t know why these details stick, but the truth is that I do remember not only names, but little details about most of my teachers: my second grade teacher hated when we used short pencils; my fifth grade teacher showed tons of film strips; my ninth grade English teacher used the word ‘bitch’ on the first day of class and we loved her for it; my eleventh grade trig teacher smelled like cigarettes, coffee, and chalk; and my twelfth grade Calculus teacher was sweet and flirty, but was probably just a stone’s throw from being a dirty old man instead.

These details stand out but they don’t mark the teachers as being particularly great or terrible. When I do think of my favorite teachers, different memories arise. My sixth grade Math and History teacher’s silly manner made his classes fun and interesting. My eleventh grade American History teacher taught me how to write clearly and concisely, and he took me seriously, which helped me gain more confidence in myself and my ideas. My twelfth grade English teacher – who is probably my favorite teacher of those years – built on that confidence and challenged us every day with thought-provoking lessons.

Unfortunately, not all of the memories were good.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. G. was rather stand-offish, which in and of itself wasn’t a bad thing, but it didn’t win her many supporters, either. Her lessons were straight-forward and predictable, which for me usually meant boring. I thrived when a teacher gave us unusual projects or pushed us with harder material. Even clumsy classroom manners were forgiven as long as the teacher had passion and energy to inject into the lesson. Mrs. G. gave us neither creative nor passionate lessons.

Sockcat

The moment that stands out in my mind was the day she assigned a project to make a puppet. It didn’t matter what kind of puppet it was – it could be a sock puppet or it could be a 10-string marionette for all she cared. It could be a princess, a dog, or a prison inmate. We were left to our own devices and given no examples, guidelines, or criteria.

I’d seen some dolls that T, my best friend, had in her house that her mother had made. We talked about it and she said she was probably going to do a puppet similar in style to the dolls. Not having the slightest idea of what kind of puppet I could even hope to make, I asked Mrs. G if T and I could do the same sort of puppet if I couldn’t think of anything else to do.

She not only told me “no” about the puppet project, but she also quite bluntly told me that I depended too much on T, that I should be more original and not just copy my friend, and that it probably wasn’t even healthy for us to be such close friends anyway. I came away from school that day with the sense that my teacher thought I was a parasite and a fake. Not knowing any better, I thought she must be right. I felt like a girl with any real talent, intelligence, or integrity wouldn’t need to get ideas from anyone else, and so it must be true that I’m useless on my own. Nothing she did for the rest of the year ever disabused me of that notion.

At the end of the year, Mrs. G. assigned T and me to different fourth grade classes so we could break our apparent co-dependence on each other. We stayed just as close as we’d been, despite the separation. Slowly, I began to repair the damage that had been done to my self-esteem. To this day, however, I find that there’s still a tiny voice in the back of my mind that ask, “Was she right? Was I really just getting valid help with a project, or was I copying? Am I really just a hack?”

A teacher’s influence can indeed be deeply-felt for many years afterward. I wish my 9-year-old self had gotten angry and fought back, but I was lucky to have good teachers in the following years to combat the damage done. It took a long time, but at least now my 40-year-old self knows how to fight back.

Was there a teacher who really sapped your self-esteem? Did you ever get it back?

 • • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a memory about a teacher you had and can explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction, I’d love to hear from you! Contact Me. Essays should be around 700-800 words.

If you write for me, I’ll put your name on my page of favorite bloggers!

 

Those Who Can’t Teach: Guest Post by Tamara Lunardo

Tamara-Out-Loud

I am beyond thrilled to have Tamara Lunardo as my guest blogger today. Where I sometimes get mired in the details, Tarama is a big picture kind of girl. Tamara’s writing is as fresh, edgy and vibrant as she is. Gentle and compassionate, Tamara (pronounced Ta-MAH-ra) is a wonderful read. Note: Just don’t mispronounce her name or call her Tammy or she’ll punch you in the throat.

Tamara has an essay featured in Alise Wright’s book Not Alone: Stories Of Living With Depression, a compilation of a wide range of experiences, voices, and opinions of individuals who have lived with and continue to live with depression. And whether she’s writing about depression or tattoos, Tamara makes you think. She makes this little Jewish girl think about Jesus a lot. And that’s something.

You can find Tamara at HERE or Twitterstalk her at @tamaraoutloud.

• • •

Those Who Can’t Teach

It was my senior year of high school, and I was a frequent skipper of my coast-able classes, as bored, brainy teens are wont to be. One class in particular was on my skip list, partly because it was the last period of the day and partly because I felt I could gain nothing from it whatsoever: Yes, I hated English.

To be accurate, I loved English; I hated that English class. I hated hearing the assistant principal use the pseudo-word “irregardless” when he visited our classroom, and I hated seeing the teacher blink blankly as I railed against it in intellectual-teen angst. I hated her insecure explanations and her flimsy lessons. I hated being so ill instructed in a subject I so well loved. And so I opted out of attendance when I could, and I snapped out right answers when I couldn’t. I was not high in the running for teacher’s pet.

And then I had a change of heart.

I took my SATs and got a near-perfect score on the verbal portion, which resulted in letters of courting from various collegiate English departments. So I decided that this was the time and way to make amends, to offer this teacher evidence that perhaps I’d listened to and learned something from her after all, even though we both knew the truth. I approached her after class with uncharacteristic zeal and shared my exciting news.

“Yes,” she vocally shrugged, “that happens sometimes.”

• • •

I walked into a restaurant in my old hometown last year, and I saw that teacher eating alone at a table. She was thinner, fainter, and still as blank. My heart went out to her, and I had to say, “Hello.”

I reintroduced myself and let her know of my modest successes with the English language since my 12-year departure from her class. I offered my degree and freelance writing and editing career as evidence that perhaps I’d listened to and learned something from her after all, even though we both knew the truth. She blinked worn eyelids toward my contrite face and said without a shred of remembrance or interest, “Oh, that’s nice.”

And I walked away with uncharacteristic zeal because I thought, It really is.

And we both knew the truth.

Did you have a teacher you could’ve done without? Were you a class-skipper or a teacher’s pet? And on a scale of 1-10, how much does “irregardless” piss you off?

• • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a memory about a teacher you had and can explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction, I’d love to hear from you! Contact Me. Essays should be around 700-800 words.

If you write for me, I’ll put your name on my page of favorite bloggers!

Substitute Preacher by Zach Sparer #twits

Zach Sparer. Isn

Today’s guest blogger is Zach Sparer. I first met Zach in 1999 as a student in my 11th grade English class. He was in 5th period. I remember this because I was pregnant, and I usually hurled right before 5th period.

Zach always came to class. And he quickly stood out as an outstanding thinker and writer. His papers were flawless. His thought-process was sophisticated. I started to wonder what he would be when he grew up.

Zach watched me gain 65 pounds, and we have stayed in touch since 1999 — which some people might think is weird. Maybe it is. But whether he likes it or not, he’s pretty much stuck with me.

You can read Zach’s blog Faux Outrage HERE. Here’s his teacher memory.

• • •

Substitute Preacher

Nobody asked for my opinion, but I eventually decided that she deserved some time off.

Ms. Jacobson was pregnant after all, and pregnant women should not be required to teach fifth period English. In fact, I came to realize, pregnant women should not be required to teach any period of English. Or anything else for that matter. For a brief time, pregnant women should be entirely devoid of periods.

They should also say goodbye to: colons, ampersands, and Oxford commas. They should take a semester off — or a trimester, at the very least.

Nobody asked for my opinion, but it was settled: She should leave.

And so she did leave, in the same unremarkable way that every important person in your life leaves: quietly, the syncopation of careful footsteps echoing like a heartbeat muffled by the floorboards.

Twenty-four hours later, there was a stranger standing in front of the classroom.

• • •

The man before us wore a red scarf and was enveloped in a dark brown tweed jacket devoid, amazingly, of professorial patches on each elbow. I immediately begin to wonder whether he was disappointed that New York state law prevented him from smoking a pipe in a high school classroom. I learned that he was there to teach us F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby, among other lessons, but realized rather quickly that his outfit and demeanor were not the result of an elaborate plan to introduce and discuss the social cultures of East Egg vs. West Egg.

We paused, mouths agape.

Who was this guy?

Suddenly, it became clear what was (or wasn’t) going to happen. The students in the classroom, looking bored as usual in their tiny metal chairs, came to an immediate, telepathic understanding: This was not going to work. No one discussed the plan — there was nothing to be discussed — and nobody winked, smirked, nodded, or passed a note.

We just knew.

Looking back, our banding together so quickly was actually a beautiful moment. Pushed together between those off-beige, pockmarked concrete walls sat the girls who never picked up a pencil off the ground in their lives and the Jocks who bought them wine coolers, the Nerds and Geeks who argued about which group encompassed the other, the kids struggling with learning disabilities and the Goths who struggled with most everything else, the Motorheads, the Motor-mouths, and Chameleons — like myself — who happily blended into the background.

We quickly recognized our substitute teacher as a bitter, spiteful man. He monopolized classroom time with personal tales of woe, of his past rejections — in love and in life and in publishing — uncomfortable stories not normally shared with still-developing high school students. He sprinkled in what were to be understood an episodes of personal triumph, but we could tell that he didn’t believe his own hype. More importantly, we could tell that what he did believe was that he was superior to the substitute teacher responsibilities that he was expected to carry out, and that he felt he had been dealt a bad hand, in life and every fifth period Monday through Friday.

Throughout his tenure (a word, thankfully, I am using to mean “period during which something is held” as opposed to “status of holding one’s position on a permanent basis”), he had an unnerving habit where he would make a negative example of certain students in the classroom. He denied those deemed unworthy the right to speak up or to ask questions. He broke up groups of friends and allowed others to remain. He didn’t play favorites; rather, he played Whack-A-Mole with the young adults he felt were not worthy of dignity or confidence.

He thought that he was too good for us.

One day, he sent two of my peers to the principal’s office. They had been tossed aside because they did not show appropriate reverence to our substitute preacher. They had spoken out of turn. They were non-believers, heretics.

A few minutes after they were sent out, our “leader” began to speculate about the quality of their home lives. The students tossed from the classroom were hardly my friends, but at that moment, they were my brother and sister. I sat there shaking my head slowly, and then faster, and then not at all.

I was listening to a grown man — someone hired to inspire — ridicule his students behind their backs, in front of their peers.

I was done blending in.

My hand was raised, high in the air.

Floating.

What was it doing there, I wondered?

He was wondering, too.

“I don’t understand why you’re talking about those people. They’re not even here.”

“Why should I stop?”

“Because that’s the way I was brought up.”

He froze.

The chameleon, no longer camouflaged, seemed to have startled him.

There was a long, sweet pause.

The tension that day in the classroom eventually subsided and, a few weeks later, the congregants of fifth period English were reintroduced to a less barfy, more maternal version of Ms. Jacobson.

Time has a way of passing.

• • •

While I am uneasy with the tidy conclusion that this short-lived experience in the classroom changed my life in a truly fundamental way, I do believe that publicly speaking out that day, against a person in a position of authority, helped shape my perspective of what it means to be engaged in a functioning, polite society.

Though I am loathe to overstate the importance of this singular event, this substitute teacher — a “negative experience” by all accounts — did help me realize that the social hierarchies and classes we are crammed into (e.g., “teacher,” “student”) are not by themselves sufficiently descriptive. We are so much more — or less, as they case may be — than mere titles suggest.

I guess I learned a little bit about The Great Gatsby after all.

Got any substitute teacher stories to share?

• • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece of writing for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored / Teachers Who I Think Sucked, write a specific memory about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction. Essays should be around 700-800 words.

Interested but have questions? Email me!

My information is under the Contact Me tab.

A Commencement Speech by Alec Jacobson

Recently, my super cool, crazy smart nephew was selected by his peers to deliver the commencement speech at his high school graduation which took place this past Sunday, June 25, 2011.

Our entire family was beyond overjoyed, and we joked that we would all need to wear Depends because, in real life, Alec is pee-in-your-pants funny! It is my understanding that during his last week of school, Alec wore some crazy stuff: weird retro sneakers; a hat with a pocket on it; a sleeveless, neon green pinny with the word “RUN” on it printed in hot pink. He was also spotted carrying a teenie-tiny, little Buzz Lightyear backpack, the kind of bag a little boy might tote to school on his first day of kindergarten. (It is also my understanding that everyone thought that his outfits and accessories were “off the chain.”)

I couldn’t wait to hear what Alec would say when he addressed the Class of 2011!

Here is what Alec said.

(NOTE: I edited Alec’s speech a bit for the sake of brevity. Please know Alec did all the niceties. He thanked the student officers, his teachers from kindergarten through twelfth grade, his parents, his siblings, and all the people who voted for him to speak. He also named specific individuals and rather than run around town getting written consent forms from everyone he mentioned, I simply omitted these specific references and kept things general.)

Alec post graduation, 2011

Good afternoon everyone.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Alec Jacobson.

When I found out that I was going to be speaking at graduation, it was actually quite anti-climactic.

I was sitting by myself in The Commons during homeroom, waiting for first period Gym to start, when I heard Mr. W. come on the announcements and say: “And congratulations to Alex Jacobson for being elected to speak at graduation.”

You can imagine that after I heard that I was pretty befuddled because:

a) I was trying to play the word “SPEAKER” on “Words with Friends”;

b) I never in a million years thought I would have enough friends to vote for me to speak; and

c) there was literally nobody in The Commons to whom I could turn and share my excitement.

So it was just me, my contained bliss, and a tad bit of rage due to W’s mispronunciation of my name.

But I got over it.

I alerted my mother of the news via text only to have her respond in all caps with: “OMG! OMG! Who are you?! Probably not my son.”

And then my sister texted me, “Congrats! You’re amazing.”

Never in my life would I have expected to be here.

Just a few weeks ago, I sat at the Senior Banquet when it hit me that we’re actually finished with high school. I remember looking around, and taking everything in, and I realized that we LOOK all grown up. Four years ago, all of us looked feeble, immature and — to be honest — awkward. I mean, I was just a short little red-head, a “ginger,” with very few friends. But now, we are adults.

We are old.

I may or may not still have red hair, but wow, we are a good-looking class.

More importantly, look at how far we have come.

For us, the future is bright.

The reality is that most of our high school years will be a blur. Sure, we’ll remember our good friends, our favorite teachers. We’ll remember our prom dates and those countless sectional titles that the boys’ and girls’ teams brought home. But the reality is that these events did not define us as a class. It is the people who have made this class truly one of a kind.

When looking at our class, many people define us by our intelligence. Sure, it is pretty incredible having students attending Harvard and Princeton and Yale. And nine going to Cornell. And while that is super impressive, the more defining aspect of our class is our diversity. We have people going to music school, business school, art school. Pre med majors, pre-law majors, and math majors. Future doctors, lawyers and CEOs right in this room seated before us. Because the truth is that this class is not only one of the most intelligent in our school’s history, but also one of the most unique.

For us, however, high school is just the beginning. It may seem like the end and, sure, it is the end of a remarkable four years. More importantly, this graduation marks a new beginning to our young lives. After all, I am giving a commencement speech, and the word “commence” means to begin.

I know it is sad, looking around right now and realizing that this may be the last time we are all together as a single, unified group. Tomorrow morning, I personally, will be going to camp for the entire summer, so to many of you, this is my goodbye. But I hate leaving things on a somber note, so I want you all to know that not only will I be back, but we’ll all be back: to make sure that our four years of high school aren’t just that blur. So I guess this isn’t truly goodbye, but an “until we meet again.”

In the meantime, go out and do something fun. Do something great with your summer and whatever lies ahead. For those of you who haven’t already seen it, watch the movie Into the Wild and tell me with a straight face that you don’t immediately want to immerse yourself in nature and discover your true self.

And like Mark Twain said: “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” Don’t rely on others to teach you things. Discover them yourselves because now we are on our own and the future lies in nobody’s hands but ours. Right now, we may think  “these are the best days ever,” but they won’t be. We have so much more to do.

So go on out, Class of 2011, and live large.

Because as my friend penned in my yearbook: “Doesn’t everybody deserve to live large?

Alec’s friend touched on the elusive American Dream when he asked: “Doesn’t everybody deserve to live large?”

It’s a great question.

An affluent district that has been relatively untouched by the recession, I saw students fortunate to have such amazingly strong foundations. They have been able to concentrate on academic excellence. They have been able to focus on homework rather than having to work to help their parents make ends meet. They have lived in homes –  nice ones with green lawns. They have had pets to cuddle and closets filled with the right clothes. Many have taken expensive vacations abroad. They have not gone to bed hungry. They have gone to bed in their own beds.  As I looked around, I was strangely struck by how wealthy the school district in which I reside truly is. Not only in terms of fiscal resources, but in the fact that students are, for the most part, emotionally well supported.

Precious few have to tiptoe nervously in a world of instability.

And that is a blessing I am not sure they even realized.

When the Class President spoke, she quipped to parents in the audience that they needn’t fret about losing touch with their children because everyone is simply a text or Skype away.

This implied the ownership of laptops and/or cellphones.

No one batted an eyelash.

Of course these students have laptops and cell phones and unlimited calling plans.

It is implied that these students are going to live large.

For these students, the future is bright.

But I think about other students graduating from other districts, too — where the American Dream appears to have dried up. Where students are starting out in a slump. And as Dr. Seuss noted in Oh, the Places You’ll Go, “Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.” I imagine Alec’s optimistic message was perhaps, a little different from other commencement speeches held around the country where the concept of graduation as a new beginning is something being met with less optimism and more uncertainty.

My nephew wrote a great speech which he delivered beautifully — and with a fair bit of self-deprecating humor.

His peers voted him “Most Likely To Become President.”

We know Alec is ready to fly.

My only wish would be for everyone to have that same opportunity to live large.

What wise words would you offer the graduating class of 2011? And do you think everyone deserves to live large?

Class Pictures: The Aftermath

That's what I'm talking about!

Yesterday for School Photo Day, I wrote about how I was voted “Class Flirt” my Senior year in high school.

A few hours after my pictures went live, Monsieur Flirt contacted me.

Actually, that is not exactly true.

Earlier that morning, I put out a call on Facebook asking friends to help me track him down.

It didn’t take long.

He responded to my blog – at first a little defensively – and we ended up privately emailing back and forth all day.

Short little emails.

He’s still funny.

And charming.

And he told me I’m funny.

(No duh!)

Somehow he forgot to mention that I am hot.

I don’t know how that happened.

Anyway, during our correspondence, Monsieur Flirt requested that I post an updated picture of him today. I guess even PMo got a little trapped behind the burden of those Senior Superlatives. Like me, he has grown up. He’s a man. A responsible and doting father with a job: a mortgage, bills. He is the same but different.

And he would like to show the world how he has morphed.

So you saw him in 1985; here he is in a photo taken in 2010.

Twenty-five years later.

PMo in 2010

At the end of our day of emails, PMo tapped out a quick last note:

Always fun bonding with you…

And I thought.

Yup.

PMo and I will always have that high school bond, a shared history where he was the studly-stud in the leather bomber jacket and I was the boobless babe in the short, red cheerleader skirt.

Thanks for being such a good sport, PMo.

If Photo Dude were taking our picture today, I’m sure he’d get a better shot. We would unlikely turn our backs to each other, and we would definitely smile.

In fact, I’ll make sure to get that picture at our 30th reunion in 2015.

Anyone else have any “Morning After” School Photo Day stories? Or am I just the lucky one?

Tweet this Twit @RASJacobson

Lessons From School Picture Day

A few weeks back Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom), Clay Morgan (EduClaytion) and Keenie Beanie came up with a brilliant horrifying idea. To go digging back through old school yearbooks and encourage other bloggers to post pictures of ourselves on our pages, along with a little write-up. They would call it:

I wanted to participate in Leanne’s, Clay’s and Keanie Beanie’s brain fart child, but I was saddened to realized I had actually scribbled all over my face in nearly every picture. Think I’m kidding? I’m not. This is my Senior picture.

Worst. Picture. Ever.

I was really into the Grateful Dead at the time. Please note my fancy spelling of the Dead, my little rose at the top of my picture, and my penned in peace-sign earrings.

I did find one picture in that same yearbook that stood out to me.

It was the picture taken for Senior Superlatives, a tradition at my high school. Members of the Senior class voted for their choice of male and female representatives in 12 different categories like Best Looking, Best Dressed, Most Friendly, Most Artistic, Most Athletic, Most Musical… you get the idea. (I wonder if they still do that.)

Scroll down to see what I got.

Monsieur Flirt and I were on-again, off-again friends during high school. During this picture, I think we were off. Yeah, definitely off. The week prior he had intentionally backed into my tan Plymouth Volaré as we waited at a red light. Honestly, he just lightly tapped the front bumper of my car with his rear bumper. Problem was my mother was also in the front seat of the car, and she did not think the whole “bumper cars” thing was very funny. She was pretty pissed.

She also has no recall of this incident at all.

Anyway, the day for photos came and Monsieur Flirt and I weren’t really friendly. I think he might have punched me that week. Or maybe he was mean to one of my friends. I don’t know. All I know is that the student photographer kept saying, “Get into a more flirtatious pose!” And neither one of us could muster it. I mean, we just couldn’t. Could there be stronger body language that says: I do not want to be in a picture with this person? But our relentless, young photographer was on assignment and kept making suggestions like, “Why don’t you dip her?” and “Why don’t you pretend to kiss?” Horrifying.

Finally, Monsieur Flirt and I decided to go with the back-to-back thing. Actually, I don’t think it was really a decision. As you can see from Monsieur Flirt’s face, if Photo Dude wanted a picture, that was what he was going to get.

When the yearbook came out days before graduation, I stared at that photograph for a long time. I thought about the words: Class Flirt. I did not think of myself as a person who “made advances.” I did not consider myself a vamp or a vixen or a seductress. But it made me realize that a lot of other people saw me that way. I mean, they voted for me. The idea made me squirmy.

I didn’t like it very much.

The idea stayed with me as I headed off to college. So did I completely reinvent myself? No. I am still a little coquette. I still bat my eyelashes and wear high-heeled shoes. I still chat it up with the boys. But I’m not interested in giving anyone a “come hither” look nor am I interested in stringing anyone along. That is not a sport in which I like to dabble.

These days, I’ve got Hubby. And Monkey is my photographer. He calls the shots. He holds the camera and tells me to be myself. And so I am. In pictures and in life. I still enjoy a fabulous double entendre, which is probably why I have a thing for The Bard. But there is so much more to me. There always was.

Photo taken by Monkey at age 11.

If you want to participate in School Picture Day, it’s not too late! Read the instructions here. Then post a picture, write a little somethin’-somethin’ (or just leave a caption) and go check out the school photos of some other bloggers like Clay Morgan and IronicMom and KeenieBeanie. If you posted a photo on your blog, please include a link in the comment section. I promise to visit. Even if you don’t do it today. I figure you have the rest of the week. For the purposes of my blog, it is School Picture Week! ;-)