Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Back to School Quiz
I can turn anything into a classroom. I'm infamous among family and friends for having quizzes at my parties. Fourth of July get-together? Name the 13 original colonies. Labor Day barbecue? Which president passed the Labor Day bill? Academy Awards party? Who wrote the screenplay for Casablanca?
The good news—there are prizes.
Some notes on my relationship to school.
1. I've never met a school I didn't like. Above is a corner of my office with pennants from a few of the schools where I've been either a student or a teacher or both. Elsewhere there are mugs and lanyards. At the moment I teach a class in "Science, Technology, and Cultural Change" at Golden Gate U. in San Francisco, and writing classes at various community colleges and other venues around town.
2. I even like graduation ceremonies, speeches and all. A few years ago I attended my goddaughter's graduation at a large university. The stadium, which seats more than 25000 people, was filled to capacity. Imagine all those people gathering, not for a football game, but for an academic event. I was thrilled. So what if most were there for a daughter or son. The fact was that academic achievement, and not running or tackling or throwing a ball through a hoop, was being celebrated by a large, excited crowd.
There should be more of that.
3. A bad experience at a school is better than a good one in the kitchen.
One fall I had a very unsatisfactory experience guest-lecturing on a college campus. The students were apathetic; the faculty were full of self-importance and told in-jokes throughout dinner. Still, afterwards I climbed a long hill to the bookstore and came home with note cards, a keychain, and a license plate holder with the school logo.
4. I love the robes.
Probably the oldest outfit in my closet is my set of doctoral robes, hood, and hat from more than 40 years ago. I wear them at the occasional convocation when I'm teaching in person and at weddings where I officiate.
A couple of years after I graduated, one of my students was ready to receive her doctor's degree from the same institution. At the time she was a little strapped for cash and I lent her my robes for her graduation. She went on to teach college herself and needed robes for the graduation ceremonies every year and sometimes twice in a year. Though she could soon afford her own, we decided to simply share my robes.
I've lived across the country from her for three decades now and we still send those robes back and forth.
The robes should have their own frequent flyer miles.
My ever-practical husband questions the cost efficiency of the practice, but for Pat and me it has been a wonderful custom. I always get them back with a note, or a bag of candy, or a T-shirt. It's as though we still share a school together and what could be better?
5. The teachers. We all treasure them. From early influences, like my Signorina Mafera, to later ones, like the wonderful San Francisco author Lewis Buzbee, who helped me make the transition from research reports to fiction, they have a special place in our lives.
6. The students. So many of mine become my friends and my teachers. I thank them all.
In a blatant theft of Joanna's idea, I offered a prize to the person who posted the correct answers to the three questions at the beginning of this blog.
1) The 13 original colonies were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.
2) Grover Cleveland established Labor Day
3) Casablanca screenwriters: Julius and Philip Epstein and Howard Koch
The winner: DRU!
Dru please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your address and I'll send the prize!