Advice for kids heading back to school

David Fong

And with that, summer disappeared just as quickly as it had arrived, leaving behind wistful memories of afternoons spent lounging at the swimming pool, blissful summer nights that seemed to stretch into eternity under moonlit skies and blissfully lazy mornings ignoring the alarm clock while dreaming of what lay ahead.

That’s nice and all … but get back to school, kids.

By the end of next week, all of the county’s most valuable resources will have returned to school, their arms full of books, their lunch boxes full of lunch, their heads full of thoughts and their hearts full of hope.

I’m sure some of them aren’t exactly pleased with this particular development, but the good news is they’ll one day learn there’s something far worse than school … it’s called the real world. In the real world, there are no summer breaks, spring breaks or Christmas breaks; there are only mortgages to be paid and deadlines to be met.

But they’ll have time to figure all of that out later. In the meantime, I wish I could offer them some advice to make their school year go just a little smoother.

If they are the scholarly type, I certainly can’t offer them any academic advice. I was a recalcitrant slacker throughout my school career, rarely ever working up to my potential. I got into college because of my standardized test scores as opposed to my grade point average — or, more specifically, in spite of my grade point average. I was a National Merit Scholar who rarely scraped the bottom of the 3.0 mark, mostly because I would rather have spent my school career playing video games.

If they are of an athletic bent, I absolutely can’t offer any advice in that arena. There’s a reason why I went into sports writing, and not sports playing, for a living. I was the last kid picked for every game in every gym class I ever was forced to take in school. Me trying to give advice to an athlete on how to get better would sort of be like a bird trying to give swimming lessons to a fish.

Some kids are proficient in arts — I was never one of them. I tried singing in public once. Someone asked what I got for doing that. Before I could answer, he said, “Because you should have got 20 years to life.” I can’t dance. I can’t draw or paint. Anything much outside the realm of connect-the-dots is well beyond the scope of my artistic purview. I tried my hand at acting in junior high school — and my performances could generally be described and stilted and contrived …. and those were the compliments.

So, for the most part, I guess I don’t really have much advice or great words of wisdom for the kids as they prepare to head back for another year of school, except maybe for this:

Be nice.

It sounds so simple, and yet you’d be amazed how many of us forget to do it. It’s not just you, kids. Adults forget all the time, too. Trust me. Mean people are out there. Chances are, you’ll spend the rest of your life dealing with at least one mean person per day.

Maybe that’s why I’m offering this advice to you while you are still young — in hopes that you can stem the tide of acrimony. Perhaps you can be the generation that decides bullying — which has been around since Cain and Abel — has gone far enough.

I was bullied in junior high school and 30 years later, those scars run pretty deep. I still remember the names and faces of many of my tormentors and the mere mention of their names never fails to bring me back to dark places.

Don’t be like those people. Be nice instead.

Here’s the best thing about being nice: it’s easy to do. You don’t have to be the smartest person in your class, or the best athlete or the best singer. All you have to do is treat people the way you would want to be treated. It really is that simple.

So please, be nice.

Because many years from now, people probably aren’t going to remember — and they most certainly aren’t going to care — if you were the class valedictorian or the star of the football team or the lead in the school play. But they are going to remember how you treated others.

So please, as you go back to school this year, remember those two simple words.

Be nice.

Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong.

David Fong Fong
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