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John Eggers: What did you learn in school this year?

It’s time for your test, students. It’s the end of the school year, and now we will ask you what you learned.

Did you know that Minnesota spends $70 more than the national average on you, or about $10,685 a year, to teach you something? When we add federal, state and local funding, Minnesota public schools spend more than $10 billion annually. That’s a lot of textbooks and turkey gravy.

Asking what you learned after all of this money spent is a reasonable request. In fact, if we didn’t ask you, we wouldn’t be very responsible.

Here’s what I believe you should have learned. This is just one taxpayer’s opinion. You might ask your parents to ask you some questions, too.

The first question is, “What do you have to do to succeed in school?”

I would hope you have learned more about what it takes to succeed in school. If you want to be successful in school, which I know you do, you have to know how to go to school. The older you get, the more you should know. I like the “GRAD” approach. If you “G,” get involved; “R,” raise your hand; “A,” attend class and “D,” do your work, you are going to do just fine and you will eventually become a “Grad” and graduate.

I would hope you learned something about your teachers. They are good role models for you. After all, they did graduate from high school and college, so they must know a lot about going to school. I am sure many struggled but they persevered and made it.

Here’s my second question, “What are five things you learned about one of your teachers?” This doesn’t include stuff like, “How much is 9x9 and where New Zealand is located.”

School is all about relationships. It’s about relating to teachers, to cooks and custodians and coaches, to principals and parents. Of most importance, school is about relating to your classmates. If you are not good at building and maintaining relationships, school is not going to be fun for you. Even though this may seem like a dumb topic, it really is the most important thing you can learn in school.

Here is my third question, first pick five classmates. Now for each classmate, “What three things did you learn about each one that you didn’t know before?” Now that’s kind of fun, right?

Did you know that students who participate in a school’s extracurricular activities (e.g. band, sports, drama, and so on) will do better in succeeding in life than students who do not participate? I think most people would agree with this.

For my fourth question, “What are three things you did this past school year where you were a participant in activities outside the classroom?” For younger children, name just one thing you did that happened outside the classroom. For me, this is what I found most enjoyable in school.

Okay, here is a seemingly unimportant topic for you but one of our best-kept secrets. Students whose parents are involved in school do better in school than students from parents who are not involved. It’s true. For example, the students of parents who attend parent-teacher conferences do better than those who do not attend.

Our fifth question is “How many times did your parents attend school functions, including parent teacher conferences.” I will give you some bonus points if you attended the conferences with your parent or guardian. I will give you extra bonus points if you participated in the conferences.

My sixth question is the best question, on a scale of 1 to 10 with “1” being “not much” and “10” being “a whole lot,” — “To what extent did you have fun in school this year?”

If you didn’t have fun, you missed out on something and next year you really need to work on this. I am not talking about “fun” like harassing your teachers or doing something stupid in school that would get you into trouble. I am talking about the kind of fun you have by being around your friends and taking an interest in your class and going to school events and just enjoying every minute of your day. Here is something you probably won’t believe; but the more fun you have in school, the better you will do.

My seventh and last question is just for the seniors. It has two parts. Part one is, “Did you graduate?” That’s it; this is what school is all about. If you did, give yourself a pat on the back. You achieved one of life’s major goals. If you didn’t graduate, you are still young and you have plenty of time. Make a plan today that will help you get your diploma as soon as possible.

Part two is for those who did graduate. “Are you enrolled in any sort of schooling beyond high school?” It’s okay to wait a year or two but never stop learning. You will never regret it.

By now, you may be wondering if I am going to ask you anything you learned like, “Did you learn algebra or did you learn about the importance of the March on Washington in the 1960s or where Pearl Harbor is?” These things are all very important, but sometimes it is hard to remember things that teachers call “content.” Unless it’s pounded into our heads, we forget very quickly. Besides if you took any kind of a test about school standards or skills, you were already tested. If you didn’t do well, you probably need to do a better job of getting the first six questions correct.

Now this test wasn’t so bad, was it? I hope you did well and if you didn’t, remember tomorrow is always another day. Have a great summer and don’t forget to have some fun.

JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.