April 23, 2024
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April 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

What You’re Actually Learning

It’s time to go back to school, although if you’re a student (especially one of my high school students), you probably don’t even know why.

“What are we even learning here?” you ask, usually while the teacher is trying to talk.

Maybe you should pay attention.

“Think about it,” you say. “Everything I learn, I forget immediately after the test. Why do you think I study last minute? The last thing I want is to study a week before the test and forget everything before it starts.”

But what students don’t realize is that most of what you learn in school isn’t even taught in the books. The books are a framework for subconsciously learning everything else. I mean, the textbook stuff is important, and some of it does stick, and then different parts of it stick when the class spends the entire first half of the next year reviewing. Basically, it’s kind of like throwing a whole pot of spaghetti at a wall—only some of it will stay stuck on the wall. You have to do it a few times, until you lose sight of why you’re doing this, exactly.

But here’s some of what you’re really learning:

1. How to pay attention when people talk. This is good preparation for marriage. Also, sometimes the rav speaks on a Friday night, and even though you’re falling asleep because it’s Friday night, you need to be able to pay attention, because your wife is going to ask what the rav spoke about. And if you fall asleep, you’re going to have to look up a vort after davening and tell her that that was what the rav spoke about. Your other option is to invite guests and hope they know.

2. How to fill out worksheets. In real life, sometimes you have to fill out worksheets. For example, every time you start with a new doctor, they make you fill out a bunch of forms, even though—and you’ve told them this when you called for an appointment—you have a pounding migraine. Sometimes you don’t even understand the questions. How do I know if I’ve ever had any of these diseases? I don’t know what they are! Can I guess? Maybe I can cheat off the guy next to me. Should I be sitting this close to him? What does he have?

3. How to keep things forever. This is something you learn when your teacher gives you a piece of paper that you have to keep for an entire year. In the real world, it’s like when you get a tax form that you have to keep for ever and ever in case you get audited and they go, “Why don’t you have that paper? We sent it to you seven years ago!” Like the more time it’s been, the easier it is for you to still have it.

And you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t know I’d have to keep it.”

And they say, “It said on the paper: ‘Keep this for your records.’

”And you go, “I didn’t read it. Also, I don’t have records.”

Also, sometimes someone sends you a birthday card, and you have to keep it for the rest of your life, even though there’s no way they spent more than ten seconds picking out the card because it was the same one they got you last year. You know this because you saved it. But the point is that you need to keep every card as proof of your age, in case you ever go somewhere where they “card” you, and you have to whip out every single card you’ve ever received to prove that you’re over 65, or whatever. I think that’s what that means. I never really buy alcohol.

4. How to get things done last minute. Life is made up of last minutes. You discover this pretty early into “adulthood”: If you start making Shabbos 3 hours before Shabbos, it takes 3 hours. But if you start on, say, Wednesday, it’s going to take 3 days, andyou’re going to have to eat food on Shabbos that tastes like you made it on Wednesday.

Also, in school, things can change. The teacher can say there’s a test on Thursday, but he’s not a navi. How does he actually know what’s going to happen on Thursday? He didn’t even know who was throwing paper balls! Thursday could be a snow day. It doesn’t really make sense to study until it’s Thursday and class has already begun and he’s started giving out tests to the first half of the room.

5. How to communicate with your spouse without your kids knowing—via sign language, passing of notes and spelling things out in languages your kids don’t know. You can’t just wait to communicate until later, because your kids are everywhere. You’re talking about them, and suddenly they’re in the hallway, right behind you, just as you’re imitating them to your spouse.

This is why parents of teenagers seem to take a lot of walks.

6. How to leave your comfort zone. My students keep asking, “Why do you keep giving us work if it means more work for us and more work for you?”Well, this is work for me. I do this for a living.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him [email protected].

By Mordechai Schmutter

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