Today, as I was helping out in the classroom my fourth graders mainstream into, I was again reminded of the gaps in my own education. Because I spent so many of my elementary school years in France, "commonly known" facts like Chicago is in Illinois and not northern California totally escaped me. And I found out this morning that George Washington had bad teeth, another little tidbit I was not aware of. In fact, he only had two teeth left when he became our first president! Old news to you, probably, but breaking news to me.
This reminds me of my junior year of high school. I was in California that year, after have spent the last four in both France and Germany. All of that summer before eleventh grade, I had nightmares that my American History teacher was going to give us a blank map of the U.S and ask us to label as much as we could. And I knew I'd flunk because I only knew where Calfifornia, Oregon, Washington, Texas, and Florida were. I mean, I had only just learned in tenth grade that Chicago is in Illinois and not northern California!!
So there I was in a new school, surrounded by thousands of seemingly unfriendly (and oh so American!) students. I'm sitting in Mrs. K's American History class on day one. And what does she do?? YOU SAW THIS COMING, PEOPLE! She hands us a blank map of the United States and tells us this is our first quiz: label as many states and capitols as you can. Well, it only took me about ten seconds to label the five states I knew. The rest of the time was spent staring at all that blank space in the middle and considering what to write: "States I've never heard of?", "The ones in the middle?", "States I'm not in right now?", "White space highlighting my ignorance?" The possibilities were endless. The most appealing possibility, of course, was to flee the scene... maybe hop back on that plane and fly to a place where I knew the names of all the countries surrounding me. Maybe there I wouldn't feel like such an ignoramus.
Thankfully, Mrs. K was a very understanding teacher and one of the best all around teachers I'd had, to boot. By the end of the school year, I could tell you where all the states were. And I could tell you some other history facts I had picked up along the way.
And now? Now, at 27 years old, I can tell you that George Washington had bad teeth.