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Freshman orientation: No better prepared today than 34 years ago

Freshman orientation: No better prepared today than 34 years ago

Posted: Friday, April 15, 2011 8:01 pm
By: By David Critchlow Jr.

Freshman orientation: No better prepared today than 34 years ago | David Critchlow Jr., Just A Thought

It was just a simple postcard, but it hit me like a brick upside the head.
Across the top, it read, “Class of 2015 Freshman Orientation.”
It can’t be. My oldest daughter is not ready to be a high school freshman.
Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago I was holding her up as a newborn, shedding tears as I proudly held her up for my family to see?
Not long after that, I remember standing over her at the doctor’s office as she was smiling back up at me — all wide-eyed. Unfortunately, that wide-eyed angelic look turned to terror and blood-curdling screams when the doctor gave her that first vaccination. That was a setup, of course, because she couldn’t see her mother or the doctor when the needle pierced her tender skin. There was only one person she could link to that pain — her big-headed, mean-old daddy — and I vowed never to fall for that stunt again.
Just last year, I seem to recall, my first daughter was wrapped around my leg, refusing to be dropped off at preschool.
And a few months ago, she was making the leap from elementary school to middle school, right?
So how can it be that in less than six weeks, she will be leaving middle school behind and turning her attention to high school?
From the beginning, all I heard was, “Enjoy it while you can because they’ll be grown before you know it.”
I rolled my eyes at every one of those people, but I’m not rolling them anymore. With apologies to those I ignored years ago, I admit I find myself saying it to new parents now.
Now, I seem to be hearing more and more from parents of college-aged children, and they’re still saying, “They’ll be gone to college before you know it.” How can that be? Just yesterday, those parents’ children were teenagers babysitting my little girls, but now my daughters are the babysitters.
While attending the freshman orientation and later meeting with the guidance counselor, I couldn’t help but think about my first year in high school and what a learning experience it was.
In fact, I’ve got a few words to share with her about “freshman orientation.”
Here are just a few lessons I learned that first year — with the help of my teachers.
• When in gym class, do not throw a volleyball against the wall. I’m not sure what the rules are now, but almost 35 years ago, 6-foot-8 basketball coach Harry Ferguson frowned on it and then proceeded to convince me it was a bad idea with the aid of a long, wooden plank in his office. Since my yoga-tights-thin gym shorts did not put up much resistance, the message came through loud and clear.
• During physical science class, do not drum the lead of your pencil on the tabletop while the instructor is trying to teach. Former teacher George Chambers (no small man either) thought this was a distraction and, with the help of a meter stick, made a lasting impression on me to that effect — leave the drumming to the drummers in the bandhouse.
• Before the tardy bell rings, make sure you are seated with your legs in front of you under the desk and not in the aisle. Former math teacher Janice Wells seemed to think if you were sprawled out on the floor and not at your desk when the tardy bell rang, you were late. It didn’t seem to matter that a girl rushing to her desk to avoid being tardy herself crashed into your legs and knocked you to the floor. Thankfully, Ms. Wells did not threaten me with a paddling. She just sent me to the principal’s office, where I was given the option of the paddle or detention.
Unfortunately for me, detention was not an option, so hard-swinging assistant principal Kerry Osteen made sure to deliver my punishment in a less time-consuming manner — short and not-so-sweet.
As it turns out, I’m proof that corporal punishment works. I haven’t done any of those things since then.
And, with my other daughter going through freshman orientation next year, I would rather not have to repeat these lessons learned from my freshman year.
Hopefully, her sister won’t either.
Editor David Critchlow Jr. may be contacted by e-mail at

Published in The Messenger 4.15.11


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