I miss going back to school. I do. Making a fresh start every single year? New teacher, new classmates, new notebooks and pens. I loved it.
I also miss being presented with a detailed list of elements that, faithfully executed, would bring me directly to success. It was like having an ironclad contract.
Yes, some teachers broke the contract and threw in pop quizzes, loopholes that seemed set up purposely to elicit failure. This was baffling to me. Did they not really want everyone to succeed? Wasn’t that the point? Thankfully, however, most teachers stuck to the script.
Of course, school success was only temporary. The next year, there would be a completely different list of required actions, always more involved, but I felt sure that if I maintained the same level of commitment, I had a fair shot at figuring it all out. I mean, the steps were printed right there in front of me.
As part of our contract, I learned to diagram and calculate and respond to multiple choice queries, although I thought “all of the above” and “none of the above” were a bit on the pop quiz side.
My real forte, however, was research papers. You were always given a long time to complete them and the format played right into my organizational wheelhouse.
Officially, the first step was to declare a topic, but my first step was always to buy the index cards. Just holding a fresh stack of index cards made me feel like I was making tangible progress.
The actual research wasn’t all that fun. Back then, it involved multiple trips to a real bricks-and-mortar library where you hoped the paper-and-ink books you needed were not already checked out. I would write (with a pen) one quote or factoid per index card, and scribble down the source so when it came time to do my footnotes, (Now you’re asking yourself, “Exactly how old is this woman?”) I would be all set. Each new card was then positioned in a rubber-banded deck according to where it might be useful in the paper. Ahhhh … .
Of course, not everybody approached research papers that way. Some people waited until the last minute, wrote the entire paper and scribbled up a bunch of phony index cards to justify the conclusion they had either invented or stumbled upon somewhere along the way. Hooligans. They may have gone on to lead fine, upstanding lives, but part of me doubts it.
With this concentrated effort, I managed to find the answers to my research queries every single time. Funny though, all those hours spent slogging and organizing and typing and today I couldn’t tell you what even one of those answers was. I don’t even remember the questions. But still, I move on.
Each grade level did become more difficult, but this adult curriculum contains questions so muddled that they even defy the use of index cards. But you know me, I buy them anyway. I buy them and fill them with thoughtful quotes and funny snippets of conversation and stack them up as evidence that, despite what I see on the nightly news, people are basically decent. Oh sure, there are days when it takes a bit of research to get there, but I’m better for the digging, and I’m never disappointed.
So, do yourself a favor this school year. Buy some index cards. Buy them and go forth to gather positive truths of your own. And don’t be dissuaded by the Chicken Little hooligans. I see a pop quiz in their future.