A Learned Behavior

(In case you haven’t noticed, this is “Autobiography Month” here at NTFC. – Owen)

Primary schools seem timeless, though
The decor changes over time

There’s much to see in every direction:
Letters, colors, places, things —

To a young child, this is a world; to
The adult viewer, it looks like a lot of work

I started kindergarten in 1967; we were living
On an Air Force Base at the time, and that’s where
The school was

I remember the colors, the letters, and the ubiquitous
Border trim around the various boards outlining things
Like the seasons, or the next holiday

I remember sitting in a circle on the floor, and drinking
Milk through a flat paper straw,
A bunch of

In Kindergarten, we were introduced to whole new concepts, like
“Standing in line”. Humans don’t stand in line, by nature:
We mill about, randomly, or we push to try to be first

Or last

But our teachers were charged with teaching us about lines,
As well as letters and numbers and printing and
All the other skills considered essential for five year-olds

One of the main things we learned in school, of course,
Was how to learn, out there, in the world:
Learning at home, from your parents, is always different

You learn who to listen to —
Some other kids think they know, but, it turns out,
They don’t

You learn that you can’t really blame others
If you don’t do the work it takes to learn,
But that doesn’t stop people from trying to (blame)

You learn that bullies are out there,
Male and female, old and young,
And that it’s not that
They don’t know
That they are hurting people,
But that
They enjoy it that is
The issue

You also learn that you might be one of them

And you learn that what you all have in common
Unites you more than the various minor, trivial differences
Separate you

We would all go to music class, and we would learn
Old songs without knowing
Where they came from or what they meant
Or even if they might be objectionable

Kind of the way we all consume news now

I had a best friend in kindergarten, he
Was my best friend for years,
By junior high, though, we had become separated
By grade (he had been held back a year) and by

When I saw him years later, he was still a super-nice guy,
But life has ways of separating us around
Things we are taught ‘matter’ —
Even when they don’t

But human beings stay the same, in essence:
The five year-old,
Trying to be heard over chattering classmates,
The twelve year-old,
Wondering where his best friend went,
The exhausted young teacher,
The bewildered parent,
The overwhelmed grandparent —

All still learning,
All still


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