issue date: 5/25/2006
“Don’t know much about History, Don’t know much Geography…”
Do you know where all the state capitals are? I didn’t until just last week. My fifth-grade twins are studying the United States and their most important cities. When they asked for my help studying for the big test, I failed miserably. I told them that Memphis was the capital of Tennessee (it’s Nashville) and had absolutely no idea what the capitals of Missouri, Kentucky, and, well, let’s face it, many other states are.
I don’t remember studying state capitals in elementary school. The only things I remember about the fifth grade have nothing to do with my education. I remember it was the year the first tower of the World Trade Center was finished. It was exciting to be able to see the world’s tallest building from our New Jersey classroom windows emerging from the New York City skyline. I remember a lot about my teacher, Sister Maria Francis. I remember sitting in the back of the room behind Pete Young and Bob Bednarzyck. (I was the tallest girl in fifth grade.) We got in trouble for shooting spitballs at our classmates and had to make 500 of them for homework and then bring them to school the next day in a baggie. Try explaining that to your parents.
I am learning many things now that I must have missed in fifth grade and all the others. Or, maybe its just my memory has started to fade. My third grader is learning about space. I really don’t remember learning about the nine planets and the rings of Saturn — ever. Now I know that there are seven rings that someone labeled using the first seven letters of the alphabet. It’s the gaps between the rings that are worthy of actual monikers: Cassini, Galileo, and a couple others. Who knew? Well, other than my third grader.
On a daily basis, I face the reality that my three kids are way smarter than I am. Right now, it’s states and space. Tomorrow it will be other things. Is it that they are learning more or are expected to know more than I did when I was their age? When I look at their future I worry, with the bar so much higher for them than it ever was for me, how will they make it? But then, I am thankful for the opportunities that lie before them. For now, I just worry how I will make it through their elementary school years. I have a lot to learn.