Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Back to school, like we never left

Note: This column appears in the 3/15 issue of The Glendale Star and the 3/16 issue of the Peoria Times.

One of the mysterious realities of life is how little we change from grammar school, no matter how much we change.

Sure, we mature, gain perspective, grow physically and emotionally … all that crap. But when reintroduced to the classroom setting with a teacher and desks, we might as well be 10-years old again.

I was reminded of this over the weekend. My wife and I, as criteria for renewing our adoptive license, embarked on an all-day training session in Scottsdale. Is there a better way to spend a gorgeous Saturday than inside of a classroom learning about why kids are nuts? No way! One way that is certainly not better is “going to the zoo,” which is how our friend treated our daughter, texting us pictures throughout the day that weren’t meant to taunt, but did. At one point I found myself looking at a picture of my daughter happily watching the camels while a woman wearing a hat that was almost definitely purchased at a gas station coughed on my wife’s leg.

It truly is amazing, watching us revert back to childhood. My wife and I arrived in each of the two training sessions with enough time to settle in and find a good seat, but not so early to be thought of as nerds with nothing better to do. Whenever someone walked in late and disrupted the class, we would look at each other and roll our eyes. Who does this guy think he is? So disrespectful.

Our first instructor made the terrible mistake of allowing an open dialogue. There are few things worse than allowing the class to lead the discussion, because that discussion will inevitably go to nowhereland. Most of us entered the training with the philosophy of “get in, learn some stuff, get out.” The ultimate goal (besides learning, of course!) of each session is to get out early. Being sidetracked by the personal agendas of a few loonies was a frustrating deterrent to this philosophy.

Here was the average question heard throughout the day. Keep in mind that no one was really supposed to be asking questions. “Yeah, okay, I see what you’re saying about that thing. But here is my specific personal situation, that is in no way relevant to what you are saying, and which I’d like to mention not so much because I’m interested in your thoughts, but because I want the rest of the class to admire me or feel sympathy for me.”

The closer we got to what was supposed to be the end of a session, the more aggressively the rest of us displayed our exasperation at such questions. Why don’t you just remind the teacher she was supposed to give us homework, too? STOP ASKING QUESTIONS MY DAUGHTER IS AT THE ZOO.

None of this is meant to place myself on a higher plane, by the way, as I also reverted to my fidgety, unable-to-pay-sustained-attention-type self. I was constantly adjusting my seat position, stretching, and falling asleep for a split second and being jerked awake when my head slid off my hand. After a break during the first session, the guy in front of me brought sugar packets back to put in his coffee. I watched him slowly put 10 sugars in his coffee—ten! That is insane—and, mesmerized by this, managed to block almost everything else out. One of the main things I took away from that session was that the guy in front of me might have diabetes.

Of course, if my agency is reading this, I am just kidding! Everybody there was normal and I learned a lot. Stay in school, kids, or whatever.

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