Education. Teachers. Parents.

As a young adult I don’t get too heavy with politics, don’t think about the issues too much.  Although I have my personal stances on certain issues, I can’t say I’m too deeply involved with topics such as global warming, oil, city office and alike because quite frankly my life does hasn’t been affected by these topics.  I know I will be affected by these topics in the near future, but for right now I must focus in on the issue that I feel strongly about, millions in the world take for granted, and millions in the world wish they had: Education.  This is my story.

NOTE: this is a long one!

Being born and raised in Orange County, California is a huge privilege in itself although as a child you can never truly appreciate the opportunity because as a kid, you’re too busy appreciating your legos or micro machines. You go to school, play with your friends, rinse, and repeat.  I don’t want to try to relate to a child in the streets because that’s not how my life was, so I will let you know that this post will be from my eyes, a little suburban boy.

Westpark Elementary School

I attended Westpark Elementary School, a brand new school located in Irvine, California.  I remember as a child I loved it because it had these orange stucco walls that seemed modern at the time, and there was this odd looking circle/triangle window-glass thingy that looked cool although I had no idea what it was.  The school was brand new, my life was brand new, and I was ready for anything.  My brother attended the same school with me, but he was older.

First grade I had Mrs. Moore. My brother had her so I would follow in his footsteps.  If memory serves me right she had some sort of bowl cut if I can remember, which was probably normal at the time considering  it was the early 90s.  First grade was interesting to say the least and I didn’t get off to a good start.  Walking to school on my first day with my mom in hand, I simply refused to go.  Standing out in front on the grass lawn I remember saying “no!” and putting my foot down.  I didn’t want to go, it was as simple as that.  I don’t know what my mom did but the next thing I can remember is that I’m in class (damn), and I recall checking out the other kids making sure I was “normal”.  I wanted to have similar shoes, similar backpack, etc…

Later that day we had “recess” which was a short 15 minute break, and being the first day and me being a lil semi-chubby japanese-mexican, I ate the lunch my mom had packed for me.  The only thing was…it was recess, not lunch!  One of the biggest memories I have as a child, of my life even, was during that lunch period and realizing I had eaten my lunch.  All the kids had their lunches and were keeping busy, and I had nothing.  I started crying and Mrs. Moore immediately came to my side.  As embarrassed as I was I told her that I ate my lunch during recess and without hesitation, she told me not to worry and gave me money so I could buy a lunch.  Words can’t describe how happy and relieved I felt when she did that.  She didn’t have to do that but she did, and I will always remember and be grateful for it.

Throughout the first grade we had many math and spelling tests, standard procedure.  One thing I knew though was that my brother Kiyoshi had Mrs. Moore before and he didn’t get a single Math Question wrong nor did he get a Spelling Question wrong (don’t judge me for my blog).  For that, he got a jelly bean jar and a gumball machine at the end of the year, and I’d be damned if I didn’t get that too.  I’ve always followed in my brothers footsteps in my life, from computers to basketball, video games to clothing, and this was the first challenge.  I’m happy to report that I did get that gumball machine and jelly bean jar.  I remember studying for tests and getting stumped on the word “sentence”, but I got it right.  First grade teaching was great, it was a perfect balance between social activity and education.  I was ready for second grade.

Second grade I had Mrs. Gersten, and this was the first time you truly get that “new class” feel.  I didn’t remember much from Kindergarten so I really count first grade as my first class and second grade was my first “new class”.  In elementary school a kid always got excited about their new class and this was first time I got that feeling, my new class virginity if you will.  In second grade, the competition was getting stiffer.  Other kids began to shine and this is the first year I feel a kid starts to show his true colors.  We had these book reports that we had to write and like I said in a previous post, if we did well we got a holographic Book-It pin. These pins were the definition of accomplishment, the reward for success, the tangible representation of motivation.  I would read books and make the best reports possible so I can get these pins, and I got quite a few of them.  It’s amazing how motivated I was as a kid for these, so I do feel strongly the way to a kid and him/her giving effort is to give them what they want but make them work for it.  I sure did.

The tests in second grade were getting harder.  Mrs. Gersten had it in a way where if you passed some tests you get to move on, and if you didn’t you had to re-take the tests.  Everyone in the class had to use a pencil, standard lead no.2 or mechanical.  After you passed a certain level, which I recall was multiplication, you got to write with a pen!  She gave us pens and it was like entering manhood almost, a feeling of accomplishment and pride.  Some of the kids had the pens, some didn’t.  Thankfully I got a pen quite easily, but there was a reason why it was so easy.

Roof of the Bunk Bed

If my dad is reading this post, he will know EXACTLY what this picture is.  This is the multiplication table he put in my bed in between first and second grade.  My brother and I shared a bunk bed, he was on the top and I was on the bottom, so under his mattress my dad stapled this chart for me to memorize and learn.  I remember it SUCKED, I hated it, did not want to learn it.  He would test me to make sure I learned it, but I felt there was no reason for me to learn it.  Boy was I wrong.

When it came time to take my multiplication tests in second grade, this table was embedded in my brain! I didn’t even have to think, it was second nature.  7 x 8? Easy. As odd as it sounds, I can’t thank my dad enough for putting me through such hell as a kid.  Note to my future kids: You can blame that multiplication table you will be seeing above your bed on your grandpa, it was his idea. Subject: Closed.


One trick I remember my dad taught me was a little thing with 9s.  I remember with my classmates, nines were the hardest.  People couldn’t get them, people would try tricks with their fingers, anything they could.  My dad did it in a different way, to use what we already learned in first grade: Subtraction.

Basically if you’re multiplying 9 x 5 for example, its just 50 – 5, which is 45.  If its 9 x 8, its 80 – 8, which is 72.

Ask a kid what 9 x 5 is, they’ll think for a little bit.

Ask a kid what 50 – 5 is, they’ll say 45 in a second.

Mrs. Gerstens class was the year I knew I had an itch for math.  I also knew I had something going on with drawing and creativity because of all the book reports I had to make and the passion I put into them.  Math + Creativity, that’s basically who I am today.  But this was in second grade, basically the root of my career.

The third grade I had Mrs. Perini and this was the first year that I’ve seen discipline in action.  We weren’t first or second graders anymore, we were third graders, no more Mr. Nice Guy.  I did get scolded on occasion but the thing that comes to mind when I think about third grade was how hard I got pushed.

The time that I recall when I had to turn my work into overdrive was when we had our big 3rd grade project, the Endangered Species Project.  The project itself wasn’t hard, it was the time I had to do it it in.  This was also the first real big “project” we had as a kid.  At Westpark Elementary, they also had this once every now and then TV show that aired on like Channel 3 that featured some students and their work that they did.  I can’t recall how many classes were featured on the show but definitely not every student, only about 4-6 students from each class were shown.   When our class was chosen to be on the TV show, Mrs. Perini wanted her students to present their endangered species projects. The only problem was that the TV show was to be taped about a month before the project was due.  Mrs. Perini picked her students for the TV show, which included me, and we got to work.  I remember every day working on my project for that goal of showing it on TV, to be done with it early. I can relate to how I work today very similarly, where I get a big project with the short time period.  It was tough but in the end the job was finished.

School projects were HUGE back in the day, and to finish it 3 weeks early was ridiculous.  The best part about the experience was the relaxation that took place after. Our Group, the “A-Team” as we were called, was done with our project so after the TV show we got to just sit back and relax everyday while kids worked hard to get their projects done.  By the way, I don’t know if it was mean or not but our classroom was divided up in different “teams” of people ranging on their level education.  This could be good but could be bad, considering the worst will be stuck with the worst.  Anyways, Mrs. Perini had this long thin cylindrical pillow that I remember just chilling on when I would read Magic Eye books, kicking my feet up and being proud and thankful I finished the project early. No pain, no gain, and at this time I was certainly gaining.

I will stop here.

I can go on and on about every single year I’ve ever had in school and what it meant to me but I don’t want to bore you too much. I’m sure you’re already bored so my apologies.

Now I don’t want to say “back in my day” considering I’m only 25, but schooling had its unusual perks that I didn’t realize at the time.  We had music, art, science, regular class, P.E., the works.   I don’t know how kids have it now but I sure hope they have all the stuff that I learned back in the day.  Without a broad education, a child won’t be able to learn what he or she wants to learn, they won’t be able to adapt and take on new subjects.  You don’t realize it at the time, but you aren’t at school to learn what you are going to learn in the future. You are at school to prepare yourself for whatever it is that you want to learn.

Let’s look at one case for me: computers.  I didn’t learn true coding until I was in high school.  In elementary school however, I learned math and problem solving, things that are the building blocks of what I know today.  I learned about being patient when approached with a problem and how to think of different ways to solve that problem.  Not only solving the problem, but what’s the best way to do it.

I play guitar today, but in elementary school they didn’t teach me guitar, I was taught the recorder and trumpet.  I have no problems with this because learning any instrument as a child teaches the student about music, notes, tone, rhythm, etc… I may not have preferred the trumpet at the time, but I still remember getting so happy when I would get those notes, when I created music for the first time as a kid.

So what’s the main benefit of school? To be able to adapt.

I strongly believe that being able to adapt is the main benefit of school.  As a kid you will complain, “why am I learning this stuff? I’ll never need it in the future” which is true for the most part, but that’s not the point of why you are there in the first place.  You can handle any situation when it comes to pen and paper, fingers to keyboard.

Family I believe involves how one will interact with society.  Instead of being given a math problem like in school, they will be presented with a social problem like being bullied or getting made fun of.  Depending on how someone is raised will ultimately decide what their next step is going to be.  Everyone grows up differently and everyone gets different careers.  I believe school and family have a big, BIG part in this.

I’ve already made this post way longer than expected so I’m going to close it up and say this:  School and Family make up a person, but a person decides who they want to be.  My brother and my sister live in Hawaii, I live in Orange County and don’t plan on moving.  My brother and I had the same teachers for the most part, same family obviously, and in many ways are the same but also very different.  He does his thing, and I do mine.  That’s our own brain thinking, choosing where we want to go, what we want to be, and who we wan’t to be with.  But how did we get to that point  of intellectual independence where we can think for our own and act accordingly in order to accomplish our life goals and dreams?

Family and Teachers.